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33 - Relations with Turkey on regional issues

Grade: C+
Unity 4/5
Resources 3/5
Outcome 2/10
Total 9/20
Scorecard 2012: C+ (9/20)
Scorecard 2013: B- (11/20)
Scorecard 2014: C+ (10/20)

Turkey’s management of relations with Russia has diverged from that of the EU and divisions over Syria remain.

Turkey’s neighbourhood is in chaos. Ankara and Europe are faced with crises both to the south and to the east, but cooperation has been limited. There was no effort by the EU to consult Turkey along the way, and Turkey did not sign up to a majority of the EU’s foreign policy positions.

The Syrian National Coalition functions out of Turkey, so Ankara plays a critical role in the Syrian opposition. European states’ engagement has varied. Luxembourg used its UN Security Council seat to prioritise humanitarian aid. France is the EU state most closely aligned with Ankara in its call for a more active pursuit of regime change in Syria, including a no-fly/buffer zone. Though Germany does not share Turkey’s strong line against Bashar al-Assad, it continues to work closely with the Friends of Syria Group, collaborating with the Syrian opposition and Ankara to open a path towards a political solution.

The human tragedy of the war in Syria continues to present a major challenge for Turkey, which now houses around 1.6 million Syrian refugees. Member states have offered some help, but having taken in only around 130,000 refugees (UNHCR estimated 123,000 in summer), Europe is falling short of Turkey’s expectations.Turkey also perceives a pro-Kurd bias in Western aid and involvement (Italy, for instance, focuses its aid on the Kurds), and Turkey’s reluctance to intervene militarily in Kobani was presented in the West as an anti-Kurdish stance.

On Russia, the division has been even starker. Ankara has not joined the EU in applying sanctions against Russia but has instead increased economic cooperation. On the other hand, Turkey plays a role in offsetting Moscow’s influence in the South Caucasus with integration projects involving Azerbaijan and Georgia, including on railways and ports. In 2014, construction began on the Trans Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP), which will form the backbone of the prospective Southern Gas Corridor. Turkey has also increased its support for Georgia to receive a NATO Membership Action Plan.