Turkey has its own vision on the issues of international security. On Iran, the Middle East, and nuclear proliferation, it has made itself the voice of the Muslim opinion which sees Israel as the chief troublemaker. A member of the NATO and candidate for the European Union, led since 2002 by the “moderate Islamists” of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), Turkey has diversified its diplomatic ties and is gliding into the camp of the countries of the global “South” — the camp of the countries that intend to join forces against the West in May, at the conference to review the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) of 1968, the cornerstone of the world order on matters nuclear.
The Turkish ally’s declaration of independence was put on striking display during the Paris visit, on Wednesday, 7 April, of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, accompanied by his foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, who advocates new diplomacy befitting an ambitious emergent regional power. At a press conference in a Paris hotel, several hours before his lunch with Nicolas Sarkozy at the Elysée, the Turkish prime minister hammered on his message, which differed from the French approach on several major issues.
About Israel: “Israel is the chief threat today to regional peace,” declared Mr. Erdogan, who has made a habit of this kind of sharp criticism after the Gaza War (December 2008-January 2009). He denounced the building of settlements as the “policy of permanent provocations,” and, speaking of the UN inquiry on the Israeli offensive against Gaza, he issued a challenge: “Read the Goldstone Report. Goldstone is Jewish, and his report is clear!”
About Iran: Iran, in the words of Mr. Erdogan, says that “its nuclear program is purely civilian. The IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency, the vereification arm of the UN) mentions probabilities. We can’t indict a country based on probabilities.”
And he marshaled all the argument that prefigured the debates on the NPT Review Conference. “Israel has nuclear weapons but has not joined the NPT,” Mr. Erdogan also observed. “Does it mean that those who don’t sign the NPT are in a position of privilege?” he asked, half ironically.
A difficult interlocutor for Nicolas Sarkozy. But Turkey, a G20 member, matters — especially since the country currently holds a seat at the UN Security Council and its cooperation is sought for a new resolution on sanctions against Iran, a new stage of diplomatic efforts made by Barack Obama and the Europeans in an attempt to block Iran’s nuclear course and its potential regional implications. Moreover, one of the great unspoken questions in Mr. Erdogan’s Paris visit is this: If Iran goes nuclear, could Turkey try to follow the same path, as some experts think?
Mr. Erdogan stopped by in France before his visit to Washington for a summit on nuclear security organized by Mr. Obama. He has received from Nicolas Sarkozy a positive response to the invitation to make a bilateral visit to Turkey, an old proposal made by Ankara to the French heads of state since the era of General De Gaulle, but none of them, not even Jacques Chirac, had met Ankara’s expectations. Given great strategic uncertainties, is a sunnier diplomatic spell possible with Nicolas Sarkozy, who, in the view of Ankara, has reduced Turkey to a foil in his discourse before the French electorate? The two leaders abstained from holding a joint press conference at the end of their discussion.
Overcoming the Differences with Armenia
During his Paris visit, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared to the press, on Wednesday, 7 April, that he had sent a letter to the Armenian president underscoring his government’s determination to make the reconciliation process successful. “We will always be faithful to what we have signed onto. Retreating from that is out of question for us, except in an extraordinary situation,” he said. Turkish diplomatic sources indicated that a Turkish envoy would have to “explore the means to overcome,” with his Armenian interlocutors, the differences over the process of ratification of the signed protocols. The protocols provide for diplomatic relations and the reopening of the common border. They would have to be ratified by the two Parliaments, a drawn-out process.
The original article “A Paris, le premier ministre turc campe sur ses positions à propos de l’Iran et d’Israël” was published in the 9 April 2010 issue of Le Monde. Translation by Yoshie Furuhashi (@yoshiefuruhashi | yoshie.furuhashi [at] gmail.com).