Turkey-US ties suffer

Turkey-US ties suffer
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has spoken about US’s decision to suspend all non-immigrant visa applications and has deemed the development “upsetting.” Turkey has..

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has spoken about US’s decision to suspend all non-immigrant visa applications and has deemed the development “upsetting.” 

Turkey has also suspended visa services in the US.

Background

The region that Turkey now stands has been inhabited by humans since the Paleolithic area. Around the 14th century, it became the epicenter of the Ottoman Empire. The empire reached its peak in the 16th century. The rule by the Ottoman Empire came to end in the 1920s after the Turkish War of Independence which was fought between 1919 to 1922. Kemal Ataturk played a key role in the establishment of the modern secular republic of Turkey.

Turkey is a member of the United Nations. It is also a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The nation has long lobbied to join the European Union. Membership talks were launched in 2005, but have stalled since. Other members have expressed concern over Turkey's human rights record. Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been in power since 2003 when he was elected the nation’s Prime Minister. In 2014, he became the country's first directly-elected president in August 2014 - a supposedly ceremonial role. Critics have accused him of embracing dictatorial traits. In 2016, there was a failed coup to unseat Erdogan from power.

The relationship between US and Turkey is tense despite the fact both nations are members of the NATO. Ties deteriorated further in 2003 after US waged war in Iraq. Turkey viewed it as a threat as Iraq is considered a haven for the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). US has also voiced its concern over Turkey’s involvement in the Syrian war. Turkey provides refuge for Syrian dissidents and trains defectors of the Syrian Army on its territory. Syrian war continues to be a point of contention between the two nations. They also do not agree on Israel and Palestine foreign policies. In 2016, Turkey claimed that US had been involved in the failed coup – a charge that America has denied.

In May 2017, Erdogan embarked on a state visit to Washington. During his visit, his security personnel allegedly attacked those who were protesting Erdogan’s visit. The skirmish resulted in 11 people being injured.

 

Analysis

In October 2017, a Turkish national, Metin Topuz, who was working in the US embassy was detained by Turkish authorities. The embassy employee was arrested in connection to the failed coup. In addition, several US citizens have already been arrested in relation to the coup. This includes American pastor Andrew Brunson. US President Donald Trump has been unsuccessful so far in arranging their release. Topuz reportedly has ties to Fethullah Gulen. Gulen, is an exiled religious leader living in the US. Turkish authorities believe that he was behind the coup, however US has refused to allow Turkey to extradite him.

A week after Topuz’s arrest, US announced that it will be suspending all non-immigrant visa applications. Burhan Kuzu, an adviser to Erdogan and a senior MP of the ruling Justice and Development Party said, “The US was irritated by this development as its [Washington's] role in the coup attempt might be revealed through this individual. The visa move came in order to pressure Turkey to give up this person.” Washington has noted that “recent events have forced the United States government to reassess the commitment of the government of Turkey to the security of US mission facilities and personnel”. Ankara responded by suspending visa services for the US.

Erdogan tried to justify Ankara’s tit for tat response. He said, “For the (US) ambassador in Ankara to take a decision like this, to put it into practice, is saddening. Turkey is governed by the rule of law. Above all, we are not a tribe, we are not a tribal state.” Turkish Foreign Ministry official has also spoken on the subject and said that this was an unnecessary escalation that would “victimize” US and Turkish citizens.

Assessment

Our assessment is that this is a major fallout in bilateral relations between the two NATO allies. It is also unprecedented in nature as NATO constitutes a system of collective defence. If there is an external attack on one of the 12 members in the group, the other members will agree to defend that nation collectively. Currently two of the members (US and Turkey) seem to have no trust in the other. 

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