Erdogan in NATO climbdown over Kurds

Syrian Kurdish members of the People's Protection Units (YPG) in 2018. Turkey considers the group terrorists. (AFP/File photo)
Updated 05 December 2019

Erdogan in NATO climbdown over Kurds

  • Erdogan withdrew his demand that the alliance designate Kurdish YPG fighters in Syria terrorists
  • Turkish president had threatened to veto NATO’s defense plan for the Baltics and Poland unless

ANKARA: NATO leaders forced Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan into a humiliating climbdown on Wednesday over his demand that the alliance designate Kurdish YPG fighters in Syria terrorists.
Erdogan had earlier been accused of political blackmail after he threatened to veto NATO’s defense plan for the Baltics and Poland unless he got his way on the YPG.
But at the conclusion of the alliance’s 70th anniversary summit in London on Wednesday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Turkey had agreed to approve the plan.
Whether to designate the YPG “a threat” or “a terror group” had not even been discussed at the leaders’ meeting, and disagreements over the issue should not undermine the gains made in the global fight against terrorism, Stoltenberg said. “Despite differences, the allies keep uniting around their core mission, which is protecting each other.”
Many in Turkey wondered what Erdogan had obtained in return for withdrawing his veto, but Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda denied any quid pro quo, and welcomed the plan as “a huge achievement for the whole region.”
Burak Bilgehan Ozpek, a political scientist from TOBB University in Ankara, told Arab News: “Removing the blockage is a good decision, but just before the summit Erdogan seemed to be trying to use the NATO forum to solve Turkey’s own foreign policy challenges, which was totally wrong.”
If such tactics ever influenced NATO’s decision-making processes, the alliance could no longer be considered purely a military defense project, instead becoming a mechanism for political wrangling between member countries, Ozpek said.
In the summit’s final declaration, NATO said: “Terrorism in all its forms and manifestations remains a persistent threat to us all. State and non-state actors challenge the rules-based international order.”
That will interest Turkish decision-makers, said Karol Wasilewski, an analyst at the Polish Institute of International Affairs in Warsaw. The aim of Erdogan’s veto gambit was “probably to break Turkey’s isolation over the Syrian issue,” he told Arab News.
“If Turkey … gets at least an assurance that the allies will tone down their criticism of the Syrian operation, or maybe even consider minor financial support for the safe zone, Turkey could argue that the bargain paid off,” he said.


US honors head of France’s Arab World Institute

Updated 28 January 2020

US honors head of France’s Arab World Institute

  • Dr Jack Lang was recognized for promoting the Arab region and cross-cultural understanding
  • First recipient of the Global Cultural Leadership Award from the National Council on US-Arab Relations

WASHINGTON: Dr. Jack Lang, president of the Institut du Monde Arabe (Arab World Institute) in Paris, on Monday received the inaugural Global Cultural Leadership Award from the National Council on US-Arab Relations.

The honor was recognition for his achievements in expanding knowledge of the Arab region and promoting cross-cultural understanding. It was presented to him at the French ambassador’s residence in Washington by the council’s Founding President and CEO Dr. John Duke Anthony, board Chairman John Pratt, International Advisory Board member Leo A. Daly III, and Executive Vice President Patrick Mancino.

Lang and a delegation from the institute were in Washington for the opening of the IMA exhibition “Age Old Cities: A Virtual Journey from Palmyra to Mosul” at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art.

“What Monsieur Lang and the IMA have achieved in highlighting the rich history and culture of the Arab region is considerable,” said Anthony during the award presentation ceremony. “They have done much to showcase Arab contributions to knowledge and understanding that have benefited the world’s civilizations and humankind in general.

“Under Monsieur Lang’s leadership, the IMA has effectively pushed into new territories in storytelling and technology that help further illuminate the innumerable, extraordinary and myriad impacts that Arabs have had on humanity’s endless quest for modernization and development.”

Lang was appointed IMA president by French President Francois Hollande in 2013. He was previously a National Assembly member for more than two decades, including stints as France’s minister of culture and minister of education. He was also mayor of the city of Blois from 1989 to 2000, and served as a special adviser to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.

The IMA, which is located on the banks of the Seine in Paris, opened in 1987 as a center dedicated to the promotion of Arab civilization, knowledge and art. It contains unique collections and hosts special touring exhibitions. These include “AlUla: Wonder of Arabia,” showcasing Saudi Arabia’s Nabataean archaeological treasure, the dates for which were recently extended after it proved to be incredibly popular.

The National Council on US-Arab Relations was founded in 1983 as a nonprofit, nongovernmental, educational organization. It is dedicated to raising awareness and appreciation of the extraordinary benefits the United States has derived from its special relationships with countries in the Arab region, and vice versa. Anthony and the council are working on plans for an Arab Cultural Institute, similar to the IMA, in Washington.