How serious are the allegations against Ankara?

A leaked confidential report from the German government describes Turkey as a "central platform for Islamist groups" and concludes that Ankara has been supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and opposition forces in Syria for years. Berlin should nonetheless steer clear of confrontation with Turkey, commentators warn, while some argue that the criticism of Ankara is hypocritical.

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Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

You don't choose your neighbours

The rift between Europe and Turkey must not grow deeper despite the allegations that the Turkish government supports terrorists, Tages-Anzeiger demands:

“Mutual recriminations are spiralling out of control and threaten to play down the importance of common interests. The two sides cannot allow this to happen. Erdoğan may be flirting with Russian President Vladimir Putin but in reality he needs Europe and Germany as much as they need Turkey - economically, politically and militarily. It's true, Turkey was never a poorer partner for Europe than it is now. But you don't choose your neighbours. That goes for both sides. Good neighbours put up with frank words and criticism. But caution and restraint are always appropriate if you want to avoid needlessly making enemies.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Europe also supported Islamists

It's hypocritical to criticise the AKP government for supporting terrorist groups, Der Standard argues:

“The AKP has always seen itself as the avant-garde of the republican Islamist parties. But memories must be pretty short for no one to remember today that both the EU and the US willingly cooperated with the political force that was swept into power after the Egyptian elections in 2011: the Muslim Brotherhood. Its overthrow in 2013 and the repercussions were criticised, the US even limited its military support. ... And the Syrian opposition that enjoyed Western support was long openly dominated by the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood - which has now been replaced by even more radical forces -, without that particularly worrying its sponsors.”

Politis (CY) /

Criticism no skin off Erdoğan's nose

Erdoğan needn't fear criticism from Germany, Turkish Cypriot columnist Şener Levent writes in Politis with more than a hint of irony:

“Tayyip, you must not forgive. ... How can people say such things about a hero of democracy? Yes, you're a hero, because you crushed the damned coup! What difference does it make that you didn't personally climb onto a tank the way Boris Yeltsin did in his day. A mobile phone was enough. Can't the stupid Germans understand that? ... What I find so reassuring are the measures you have implemented in your country. Throw all the journalists who write about you into prison. Close the TV stations. ... Let them all go to hell. Because that's what you call democracy. Tell the Germans they should stop prattling on like this. Otherwise you'll pile the refugees on their doorstep.” (DE) /

Berlin wants to avoid chilled relations

The German government is displaying far-sightedness in continuing to seek dialogue with Turkey, believes:

“Can we expect that all of these insights will be voiced loudly in public? The answer is no. Those who want to be able to influence and shape developments must keep the communication channels open. Also in their own interests. Germany's relations with Turkey are too deeply entwined to opt for provocation or a political chill. Especially since that would help no one. But this case also shows that the chancellor needs the controversial deal with Turkey at any cost. ... The louder the German government criticises Turkey, the more that will drive Erdoğan into a corner. Yes, he must be criticised, and in no uncertain terms, but above all in private talks. Public provocation cannot be the basis of a clever pragmatic policy.”

Radio Europa Liberă (RO) /

Favours for Sunni terrorists

Turkey is making its Western partners nervous in many respects, Radio Europe Libera observes with concern:

“Because Erdoğan wants Turkish society to become islamised he has supported the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq - until recently to the same extent as Saudi Arabia, another unreliable partner of the West. Moreover Turkey supported the jihadists of the al-Nusra Front, an offshoot of al-Qaeda, whose main doctrine until recently was to destroy the West but which is now presenting itself as a moderate Islamic opposition group. Obama, Washington, Nato - none of them has ever reproached Erdoğan for helping the Sunni terrorists. But the US has stationed nuclear weapons in Turkey, in İncirlik, the military base where the power supply was cut off immediately after the attempted coup. … We must take care that Turkey's Nato membership doesn’t soon come to be seen as a historical coincidence that needs to be reassessed.”

Milliyet (TR) /

Ankara will seek middle course in Syria

The newspaper Milliyet suspects that Turkey is about to do a U-turn in its Syria policy:

“Since the crisis began Turkey has made Assad's removal a basic condition for a solution and therefore openly supported opposition groups. This put the country in opposition to Russia and Iran, which back Assad. Since reopening dialogue with Russia and Iran, Turkey is seeking a more compatible strategy. In view of these two countries' unbending stance on Assad Turkey must be flexible and try to steer a middle course. In other words, Ankara may now stop insisting that Assad must go first. … Another issue on which Ankara must coordinate its Syria policy with Russian and Iran is its active support for oppositional groups. Everyone knows that Russia has declared these forces, including the Turkomans, as targets and that this is a source of concern for Ankara. Turkey expects Russia to stop seeing these forces as enemies. ”

Sme (SK) /

Erdoğan must be seen as a partner

Not just Turkey's government but also its citizens are angered by Nato and the EU's current coolness towards the country, Sme comments:

“They have the feeling that the key partners in Nato and the EU had already formulated their communiqués denouncing the vengeful acts against the conspirators even before the failed coup took place. Yet 80 percent of the country's voters, and not just the AKP, are against the insurgents. … Naturally the West must insist that Erdoğan adheres to democratic principles. But it must also remember that Turkey grew up with neighbours other than Germany or the US - with states like Syria or Saudi Arabia that don't have religious freedom or civil societies. To secure the future of democracy in the Middle East it is vital to see Erdoğan as a partner - and a quite successful one at that.”

Hürriyet Daily News (TR) /

Turkey doing the EU's dirty work

The EU complains of a lack of democratic standards in Turkey but that doesn't seem to have any effect on security cooperation between the Europe and Turkey, Hürriyet Daily News observes:

“Scandalously, some of those extradited by Turkey were then released by European countries and ended up staging terror acts in European capitals. ... Apparently the Europeans are nowadays telling the Turks not to deport potential terrorists, after they themselves failed to incarcerate them. When their 'democratic standards' get in the way of stopping potential terrorists, they seem to insinuate that it would be easier to combat terrorists by keeping them in Turkey’s system, which is short of 'democratic standards.' It is almost as if Turkey should do the dirty work and set up its own version of Guantánamo, while the Europeans keep their hands clean.”

24 Chasa (BG) /

Ankara's change of direction in foreign policy

Turkey may form a new alliance with Assad, Russia and Iran on Syria, 24 Chasa speculates:

“Erdoğan is indeed changing direction in foreign policy. This is clear from the fact that secret negotiations are taking place between Ankara and Damascus, despite the Turkish foreign minister's protestations that Turkey's stance on Assad remains unchanged. These negotiations are being conducted in Tehran, among other places, by unofficial envoys with good contacts in the other side's government. … The focus in the talks between Russia and Turkey in Saint Petersburg was on 'preserving the territorial integrity' of Syria, a policy which is clearly directed against the Kurds and explains why the erstwhile arch-enemies Erdoğan and Assad are now willing to make compromises according to the motto: 'There are no long-term enemies or friends, only long-term interests.'”

Il Sole 24 Ore (IT) /

The EU's empty threats

The EU is being incredibly naive to try and threaten Turkey with ending EU accession talks, in the eyes of Il Sole 24 Ore:

“Aside from the fact that the problem today is to try to hold on to those who want out and not to win new members for the union, Brussels' ideas about the country are out of date. Today's Turkey is no longer interested in joining the EU. Its ambitions have long been global and oriented more towards the East than the West, more in line with the High Porte [of the Ottoman Empire] than anything befitting a modern nation. The talks with the EU are only continuing - as prescribed by the laws of diplomacy - to keep all options open and because ultimately they are economically advantageous, as illustrated by the refugee deal. ... Under the pretext of restoring order after the coup, Erdoğan's regime is increasingly transforming itself into an Oriental satrapy.”

Ziare (RO) /

Nato in a predicament

Expelling Turkey from Nato would have serious consequences, declares the portal Ziare:

“The Western world, and first and foremost the US, until now a key ally for Turkey, is compelled to react to the severe violations of the rule of law in the country. Turkey is being threatened with expulsion from Nato. ... The loss of its second most powerful military power would significantly destabilise Nato. At the same time tolerance of this anti-democratic wild card could completely discredit the civilised world. The West is in a lose-lose situation. ... And even if Erdoğan recovers, the attack on him by the Turkish army will have far-reaching consequences.”

Kauppalehti (FI) /

EU membership not on the cards

In the view of recent events Turkey can't become an EU member, writes Kauppalehti:

“In the first few years of the EU membership talks Turkey made progress in areas like human rights. … At the end of the last decade this promising trend came to a halt and was reversed. The EU membership negotiations have practically stalled for years now. And after recent events one has to ask whether there is any basis for membership negotiations. … Close cooperation between Turkey and the EU is politically and economically important. But the goal must be realistic. Just as the EU and the UK are having to rethink their future relations after Brexit, Brussels must reflect on what form the relationship with Turkey should now take. Right now full membership seems to be an unattainable objective.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Don't slam the door on Ankara

Even after Ankara’s radical response to the failed coup, Europe should not turn its back on Turkey, Der Standard believes:

“There are some very good reasons why the Europeans in the EU (and in NATO) would be well advised to keep a cool head and not to slam the door on Ankara: the EU and NATO need Turkey as a partner, even in this, the worst crisis in relations for decades. Brussels’ diplomatic response cannot be to turn away: that would only make things worse. It shows, rather, that in past years Europe has passed up opportunities to take a more active stance towards Turkey, with criticism of Erdoğan and help for the opposition. The Süddeutsche Zeitung wrote that Turkey has an 'enormous freedom to do as it pleases', because of its geostrategic position. The EU will have to live with that for some time to come - unfortunately.”

Hospodářské noviny (CZ) /

Turkey must leave Nato

If President Erdoğan puts his revenge plans into action Turkey must be excluded from Nato, Hospodářské noviny argues:

“Up to now Turkey has been regarded as a unique and geopolitically important oasis of stability in the Middle East. This will change if the president follows through on his promise and takes Stalin-style revenge on all those who were allegedly involved in the failed military coup, reintroducing the death penalty and having them shot. … It is not particularly apt here to point out that the US has the death penalty. Yes, it does, but only for individuals, and only for concrete crimes. In Turkey the death penalty would be an instrument for swift and indiscriminate punishment according to the principle of collective guilt which is alien to Western values. The civilised world can only react to that by excluding Turkey from Nato.”

România liberă (RO) /

Democracy just a drag for Erdoğan

In the aftermath of the failed military coup in Ankara Western Europe is still ignoring the rules according to which the Erdoğan regime functions, writes Romania Libera:

“In Erdoğan's country corruption is rampant. Most Turks, however, don't want to fight the system. Only the intellectual elite that was educated abroad longs for something different. The system in Turkey is organised according to ruling castes. Rich families make the laws. … Turkey doesn't have what could be called a consolidated democracy. It is not the parties that count there, but the ruling castes. Westminster-style parliamentary democracy with the separation of powers and political pluralism are a modern abnormal development [in Erdoğan's view]. But despite all that the Western state chancelleries act as if they don't realise that he's making a fool of them.”

Hospodářské noviny (CZ) /

Europe will remain hypocritical

Even if democracy is further eroded in Turkey, Europe will simply go on turning a blind eye, is Hospodářské noviny’s sober analysis:

“With Recep Tayyip Erdoğan we will have another dictator in Europe alongside Lukaschenko and Putin, even if he’s on our side, at least in military terms. We will invite him to our summits and behave like hypocrites: we will shake his hand while secretly wishing the Turks would finally get rid of him. If possible by democratic means, but if worst comes to worst, then, yes, let’s admit it – also by other means. That they should find a better leader who does not run a totalitarian regime but guides them in the direction of freedom, pluralism and prosperity. That’s what we would wish anyone in the world, but right now the Turks most of all.”

România liberă (RO) /

An unstable leader in a key region

The thwarted military coup in Ankara has demonstrated that Erdoğan can't be relied on to guarantee stability, România Liberă warns:

“Without Turkey it will be impossible to have any control over Syria and Iraq or to carry out operations against the terrorist IS. Without Turkey Europe's south-eastern flank and the Black Sea can't be defended against Russian expansion. Without Turkey the world's strategic balance of power is under threat. … The Western leaders have issued lame press statements to the effect that they stand behind the democratic and institutional order in Turkey (which don't exist) because they can hardly voice support for a failed military coup, and a stable Erdoğan seems a safer bet than instability. However, now we know that Erdoğan is by no means stable but a factor causing national and regional instability. The West can't afford another crazy dictator at the centre of the world.”

Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

Refugee deal should end now

Dagens Nyheter considers how the events in Turkey might influence the EU’s refugee deal with Turkey:

“Foreign Minister Margot Wallström has been cautiously positive about cooperation over refugee policy. But that could also simply be a sign that there is no plan. Turkey has really already disqualified itself for cooperation – if you can call it that. For Erdoğan is more of a blackmailer than a partner. The only reason the EU tolerates Turkey’s temperamental president is that it has no alternative. ... The events of the weekend may force the EU to find a better solution, and not a moment too soon.”

More opinions

Le Courrier (CH) / 19 July 2016
  Erdoğan not much better than Assad (in French)