Europe attitude towards Turks can push Ankara closer to Moscow

Eurasia Daily Monitor, DC
Oct 14 2006

EUROPE’S PATRONIZING ATTITUDE TOWARD TURKS CAN PUSH ANKARA CLOSER TO MOSCOW

By Igor Torbakov

Friday, October 13, 2006

Turkey’s prospects of becoming a full-blown member of the European
Union are again seriously endangered — this time by a fierce row
with France over the `Armenian genocide’ bill. According to analysts,
the West’s continuous snubbing of the Turks could result in Ankara’s
moving strategically closer to Moscow.

On October 12, France’s National Assembly approved a bill making it a
crime to deny that the mass slaughter of Armenians in the final years
of the Ottoman Empire was genocide. The Socialist-backed legislation,
which gained support from right-wing assembly members, stipulates
that anyone denying that genocide took place will be jailed for up to
five years. (France recognized the killings of Armenians as genocide
in 2001, but that bill did not provide for any criminal penalties for
denying genocide.)

The Turkish government adamantly denies any accusations of genocide,
insisting that hundreds of thousands of Turks and Armenians died in
civil strife that was merely a part of the larger World War I
conflict.

The French vote caused a wave of indignation in Turkey with thousands
of protesters marching in Istanbul and the country’s parliamentary
speaker calling the vote a `shameful decision.’ There have been calls
across the country to retaliate by starting a boycott of French
goods.

Although both the French Foreign Ministry and the European Commission
distanced themselves from the bill and called it `unhelpful,’ most
Turks believe they are purposefully discriminated against by the
Europeans, who do not want to see Turkey in the EU and thus put
ever-new hurdles on Ankara’s European path. The French vote came two
weeks after the European Parliament issued a report calling on Turkey
to acknowledge the Armenian killings as `genocide.’ Last week, French
President Jacques Chirac suggested, while visiting Yerevan, that
recognition of `genocide’ against the Armenians should be a
precondition of EU entry. And the leading French presidential
hopeful, Nicolas Sarkozy, a long-time opponent of Turkish entry into
Europe, raised the stakes further by saying that even if Ankara
admitted genocide, that change should not guarantee it EU entry.

The mishandling of the `Turkish question’ could prove too costly for
Europe’s strategic interests, a number of the Western and Turkish
analysts warn.

First, the rebuffs of Ankara’s European ambitions undermine support
for the pro-EU forces in Turkey’s domestic politics, as a growing
number of the country’s policymakers and experts begin to doubt
Europe’s intention to negotiate Turkey’s accession seriously. Some
Turkish observers note that with the growing frictions between the
West and the Muslim world, the Turkish political discourse has come
to be dominated by Islamic considerations. As a result, more Turks
tend to view their country and the world around it exclusively
through a religious prism — a trend that leads to the perceived
dichotomy between Turkey and the West. According to recent opinion
polls, almost half of the Turks think that Turkey does not belong in
the EU because it is predominantly Muslim. At the same time, an
increasing number of Turks appear to feel stronger affinity with
other Muslim peoples in the Middle East — a development that results
in public demands to establish closer ties with neighboring countries
such as Syria and Iran. The rise of the ruling Islamist-leaning
Justice and Development Party, which rests on resurgent Islam, and
the U.S. invasion of Iraq, which is severely condemned by the Turkish
public, `created strong feelings of solidarity between Turkey and its
Muslim neighbors,’ a recent policy paper suggests.

Second, Europe cannot take Ankara’s loyalty for granted because
Turkey has strategic alternatives. One such alternative, notes Denis
MacShane, Britain’s former Europe minister, in a Financial Times
commentary, is that `it can create a Black Sea alliance with Vladimir
Putin’s increasingly authoritarian Russia.’

Many Turkish analysts consider the Kremlin’s more assertive policy in
the Middle East as a positive development rather than as a potential
threat. Ankara sees Moscow, which seeks to take a more independent
line in the region and is keen to dispel the image of being
Washington’s junior partner, as a useful counterbalance to what the
Turks perceive as dangerously destabilizing U.S. policies. Both
Russian and Turkish experts note the affinity of Ankara’s and
Moscow’s positions regarding Middle East issues. `In the final
analysis, Turkey’s views are different from the West and closer to
Russia,’ one influential Turkish analyst argues.

Similarly, both Ankara and Moscow share a pronounced bias in favor of
preserving the status quo in the Black Sea and Caucasus region. The
U.S. and EU policies of `spreading democracy’ make both Turkey and
Russia jittery. Their outlooks on the West’s democratic proselytizing
are almost identical: reform and change should come as a result of
the countries’ internal dynamics; no external influence should be
allowed.

(Turkish Daily News, New Anatolian, October 13; RFE/RL, October 12;
Financial Times, October 11)

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

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Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS