Turkey’s Diplomatic Stumbles

I’m on record as being a big fan of Turkey’s diplomacy of late, which makes the posture of Turkish PM Tayyip Erdogan during the Gaza War a bit of a puzzle. Turkey is a democracy, so the fact that Turkish public opinion was overwhelmingly outraged by the Israeli attacks probably played a part. Erdogan might also just have been unable to separate his personal reactions to the violence from his governmental function. And there’s always the possibility that there was a double communication going on, with his public declarations mitigated by direct exchanges with Israeli leaders. But I can’t help but think he jeopardized Turkey’s status as impartial intermediary which formed the basis of its higher profile and prestige in the past few years.

And as proof that nobody’s perfect, Turkey’s historic stance on Greek Cyprus is both obsolete and counterproductive. Ankara has plenty of leverage over Brussels when it comes to its EU accession — as Erdogan’s not-so-veiled threats to kill the Nabucco pipeline if its energy accession chapter is blocked made clear. But seriously, this is a clear case of penny wise, pound foolish. The impressive quality of Turkish diplomacy has been its emphasis on influence, communication and networks over over power, isolation and poles. But the Cyprus question is, across the board, a case study in the ineffectiveness of the latter.