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40 - Relations with Turkey on regional issues

Grade: C+
Unity 4/5
Resources 3/5
Outcome 3/10
Total 10/20
Scorecard 2012: C+ (9/20)

Europeans had little impact on Turkey’s hawkish approach to the crisis in Syria and diverged on Egypt and Iran.

In 2013, EU member states tried to maintain a common front with Turkey on the war across the border in Syria. Yet the EU was itself divided: while France took a hawkish stance similar to that of Turkey, others such as Germany opposed direct intervention. The conflict is now spilling over into Turkish territory – more than 600,000 refugees have crossed the border and bloody bomb attacks wrecked the town of Reyhanli in May. Europeans were concerned that Ankara is more open to co-operating and allegedly running weapons for radical Islamist militias such as Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS in order to fight the regime more effectively and contain Syria’s Kurds. But, in mid-October, Turkey declared that it had hit positions of ISIS and Erdoğan declared that jihadis were not welcome in his country. Despite its reservations, however, Turkey followed the US and supported the Geneva II talks that finally began in January 2014.

The EU and Turkey diverged on Egypt. After the coup against President Mohammed Morsi, an ally of the ruling AKP, Turkey withdrew its ambassador from Cairo. Europeans, on the other hand, chose to maintain links and did not cut financial aid. On Iran, Turkey was again aligned with France: both took a more cautious approach to the newly elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani than other EU member states and the Obama administration. The interim agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme brokered by the E3+3 created further complications for Ankara, which has long tried to balance the Islamic Republic not only in Syria but also in Iraq and Lebanon. In 2013, there was a rapprochement between Turkey and Israel after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologised for the 2010 flotilla incident. However, neither the EU as such nor its member states played a significant role in this rapprochement.