Turkey at a Crossroads


Turkish Flag fluttering in a breeze (www.jb-photography.org)

Turkey in a rapidly changing political environment – a comment by Mariela Zamfirova

The Turkish charity organisation IHH recently changed its mind as to whether to send its ship ‘Mavi Marmara’ with the upcoming ‘Gaza Freedom Fleet’ on yet another mission to Gaza. Тhe explanation is that for technical reasons the ship is not seaworthy.

The news does not surprise the world as Turkey has been urged into а new scenario by the threat of a civil war in Syria, growing waves of Syrian refugees at its border and pressing demand on the side of the US that Flotilla II should be reconsidered.

The chronology of events shows in a pretty straightforward way how the story has woven into its present day dimension:

11 May: More than 30 United States congressmen send a letter to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan requesting discouragement of the planned flotilla.

31 May: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin reiterates that “if necessary, Israel will exercise force against anyone who tries to disobey the navy’s orders and head to Gaza’s shore.”

6 June: Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu recommends that “the aid flotilla should wait to see what happens with the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza being opened.”

7 June: Bülent Yıldırım, leader of the IHH, confirms during an interview with us that ‘the fleet will sail at the end of June’ despite the border opening at Rafah.

14 June: a spokesman of İHH says humanitarian developments on the Turkish-Syrian border as one reason

their aid efforts may be redirected.

15 June: Israeli forces hold naval drills to prepare for the possibility of boarding flotilla ships once again.

17 June: IHH President Bülent Yıldırım announces at a press conference in Istanbul that the Mavi Marmara and a second cargo ship will not take part in this year’s flotilla to Gaza.

18 June: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talks to her Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu and

expresses satisfaction with the IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation’s announcement that the ship the Mavi Marmara will not take part in the flotilla.

Clearly Turkey wants to steer clear of an untimely crisis with Israel, especially now when both countries has a common issue to discuss: the events in Syria. On 22 June Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan told Syrian President Bashir al-Assad that there is still room for him to maneuver towards reforms. Ankara’s most immediate concern is to avoid any foreign military intervention by its borders like the one in Libya. In order to address this concern before it becomes too late, Turkey has to change its approach: forget about being a balancing factor and take a proactive role in getting control over the situation, now that the days of Assad’s

regime appear to be almost over.

Whether Turkey will seek an alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood for the sake of peace in the Middle East and how Ankara and Jerusalem will go on in their relations, these are questions that will need to be answered fairly soon in the rapidly changing political landscape of the region.

Mariela Zamfirova – Middle East & Balkans News / Image: JB Photography

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About Johann Brandstätter

Photojournalist and documentary photographer based in Bulgaria, working mainly in the Balkans and the Middle East. Conflicts & crises, social and environmental issues, defense & military, travel, transportation.
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