Better late than never
Turkey received 60 votes from members of the UN General Assembly. Spain came away with 132. The results came as a major blow to Turkish officials who had confidently predicted victory, especially since their country’s 2008 UNSC bid was a runaway success with 151 votes out of 193 going to Turkey.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu admitted that some UN member states were angered by his country’s foreign policy, saying, “There may be those who are disturbed by our principled stance,” adding, “We will not abandon this stance for the sake of votes.”
The relationship between Turkey and many of its regional neighbors has turned chilly due to its staunch backing of the Muslim Brotherhood that several have branded “terrorist.” US-led coalition countries were critical that one of the mightiest armed force in the region did nothing to prevent the Islamic State (IS) takeover almost half of the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani, but rather monitored the carnage unfolding through binoculars.
Erdogan’s out-of-step stance was not appreciated by the international community but more than that, it was unwise when Kurds make up 20 percent of his country’s population and many have been venting their fury during countrywide anti-government demonstrations, while others vowed all-out rebellion unless the government does more to assist their brethren under fire. As reported by the Turkish newspaper Zaman, earlier this month,
Erdogan stated that the PKK was no better than ISIL. His view goes a long way to explain his country’s hitherto inaction bordering on obstruction. He fears that by arming Syrian Kurds, they will ultimately pose a threat to his own country. On the other hand, to be fair, Turkey has offered unstinting hospitality to 1.6 million Syrian refugees, it terms “guests” who are given access to jobs, health care and education.
However, within recent days, the Turkish stance has visibly softened. The government has made a concession by permitting Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters to cross over into Syria to join the fight against IS; a change of heart that came just hours after US planes began dropping weapons and food to support the fighters in Kobani. But this is no policy change says Aaron Stein, an associate fellow at the UK’s Royal United Institute for Defense and Security Studies. He maintains the “recent decision is the outcome of Turkish isolation, rather than Turkish inclusion,” explaining that Turkey’s fear of international isolation was its prime motivation.
However, Turkey still denies the US access to its Incirlik Air Base in the south of the country from which to launch airstrikes, unless its conditions — a buffer zone beyond its borders, no-fly zones over Syria and an extension of the conflict to bring down the Assad regime — are met. However worthy those goals may be, they could trigger unintended consequences. Both Moscow and Tehran have warned against broadening the fight to force Assad to step down without a UNSC resolution.
The secret UNSC ballot on Turkey’s non-permanent membership may have been a wake-up call for President Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmed Davutoglu. Their ideological-led policies are alienating allies, diminishing Turkey’s global influence and risk internal civil unrest, especially since the country is facing an economic slowdown.
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