The conflict in Syria brought Turkey closer to Western allies. Yet forging a common EU–Turkish policy was difficult because of the EU’s limited resolve and capacity to act.
The EU aims to engage Turkey to address pressing issues across the shared neighbourhood, notably in the Middle East and North Africa. In 2012, the key issue was the conflict in Syria, which dominated Turkey’s foreign policy and by extension its dealings with the EU. Both wanted President Bashar al-Assad out and supported the efforts of UN mediators. There was an ongoing dialogue between the EEAS and the Turkish foreign ministry, which played a very positive role. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu participated in the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council.
In December, NATO agreed to deploy Patriot missiles, including from Germany and the Netherlands, along the 900-km border with Syria. Turkey has not openly called for humanitarian assistance to nearly 140,000 Syrian refugees but informally indicated that aid should be channelled via Turkish charities. The EU is therefore prevented from playing a role in humanitarian relief. EU foreign ministers were critical of Turkey for promoting the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria, though they welcomed its acquiescence to establish in November the Syrian National Coalition, which aims to build a more inclusive opposition platform.
Turkey played a complex role in relation to Western sanctions on Iran. Exports from Turkey to Iran, in large part gold, have more than doubled over the year, reducing the sanctions’ bite. Istanbul hosted E3+3 talks on the Iranian nuclear programme in June and a bilateral meeting between High Representative Catherine Ashton and Iranian chief negotiator Saeed Jalili in September. Turkey also continued to play a leading part in Europe’s energy politics. During a visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin to Ankara in December shortly after Gazprom signed a 30-year contract with Turkey, the two countries agreed to disagree on Syria and deepen economic ties. Meanwhile, the EU encouraged Turkey’s diversification efforts, which also benefit the EU. Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger praised Turkey’s ratification of the Trans-Anatolian gas pipeline agreement, a joint enterprise with Azerbaijan’s SOCAR.
|Leaders: France - United Kingdom|