Turkish citizens warming to NATO and EU as new cold war bites

Special Turkish citizens warming to NATO and EU as new cold war bites
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and EU Council President Charles Michel in Brussels, Belgium, Mar. 9, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 14 April 2022

Turkish citizens warming to NATO and EU as new cold war bites

Turkish citizens warming to NATO and EU as new cold war bites
  • Survey finds Turkish public opinion expressing more trust for military alliance
  • Global risks around Turkey moving public to take cautious stance, says expert

ANKARA: A new survey has found that Turkish public opinion is more oriented toward international organizations such as NATO, reflecting a positive stance on the country’s EU membership bid.

The survey, titled “Turkish Perceptions of the European Union,” was conducted by the German Marshall Fund of the US with the field study carried out in March by Istanbul-based Infakto Research Workshop across 29 provinces of Turkey through face-to-face interviews with 2,180 people. 

The survey revealed that 48 percent of respondents expressed trust in the EU, a rise from the 40 percent who said the same last year; 39 percent voiced support for NATO, a jump from 32 percent in 2021. 

As a candidate for EU accession for 23 years and as a powerful member of NATO with increasing economic and military dependency on Russia, Turkey is now trying to find a place in the changing European security and political architectures.

NATO’s tough position on the Ukraine conflict also turned the public opinion in favor of the alliance, seeing it as a key pillar of Turkey’s security.

Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, the Ankara office director of the German Marshall Fund, said the relatively higher trust shown by the younger generation in Turkey toward international institutions is a reflection of their frustration with the conditions in Turkey.

“Economic challenges such as high inflation, eroding real earnings and unemployment, decreasing quality of education and the polarized political environment frustrate young people who are increasingly looking abroad for a way out,” he told Arab News. 

Support for Turkey’s EU membership is high (58 percent) and even higher in the 18-24 age group (73 percent). However, the confidence that Turkey will become an EU member remains low, with average expectations for the accession timeline ranging between 10 to 15 years. 

“In terms of realpolitik, both the Ukraine conflict and Syrian refugee crisis have definitely underlined to many policymakers in the EU about Turkey’s geostrategically important location,” Paul T. Levin, director at Stockholm University Institute for Turkish Studies, told Arab News.  

“But this occurs against a deep unease with the current regime’s foreign policy and poor democratic record. Both sides are in a sense thrust together by geography and events and are struggling to find ways to coexist and collaborate despite serious value divergences and a defunct EU accession process that puts a premium on these divergences.”

The survey also revealed tendencies regarding other global actors and regions and showed that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine obliged Turkey to reconsider its relationship with Russia and the West.

Thirty-eight percent of respondents want Turkey to play a more active role in the Middle East, Balkans and North Africa, while 59 percent would prefer Ankara to deal with its domestic problems first.

One-third of the respondents think Turkey should cooperate most closely with EU countries on international issues.

Galip Dalay, a fellow at the Centre for Applied Turkey Studies at the German Institute for International and Security affairs, told Arab News that the increased public support for the EU accession bid and NATO reflects the pursuit in Turkey for democratization and more openness on the global scale. 

Regarding the Ukrainian conflict, 44 percent of the respondents said Turkey should mediate between the parties, while 40 percent said Ankara should remain neutral. 

“The survey clearly highlights that the Turkish public doesn’t want their country to be entangled in the war Russia is waging against Ukraine. The Turkish government’s policy of staying out of the conflict and attempting mediation has a strong public backing,” Unluhisarcikli of the German Marshall Fund said.

The survey also found that 58 percent of respondents consider the US its biggest threat, followed by Russia (31 percent, rising from 19 percent last year) and Israel (29 percent, rising from 24 percent in 2021). 

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has significantly lowered the support to cooperate with Russia and increased the unilateralist tendencies rather than increasing support for cooperating with the US or the EU because pro-Russian sentiment in Turkey has always been another manifestation of being against the West,” said Unluhisarcikli. 

When asked about how the conflict in Syria should be resolved, 50 percent of respondents said Syria’s territorial integrity should be maintained and the Assad regime replaced. But 21 percent said that Syria should go back to its status before the civil war under Assad’s leadership, with 17 percent believing that the Syrian opposition should have their own territory.

“The survey shows that roughly half of the Turkish public thinks that Assad should go and Syria’s territorial integrity should be maintained. This is also Turkey’s official policy. Those who support returning to the pre-war status quo under Assad’s leadership are less than 25 percent,” said Unluhisarcikli.

He added: “So I don’t think there is an expectation by the Turkish public to change the Syria policy. However, there is an increasing tendency to expect Turkey to solve its own problems rather than playing an active role in the neighborhood.”

In the meantime, 51 percent of respondents said Turkey and the EU had conflicting interests in the Syrian civil war.

With rising global risks around Turkey, which neighbors several conflict zones, Dalay said that the Turkish people will be inclined to take a cautious stance to minimize potential challenges. 

“Despite the restrained approach of Turkish public opinion regarding the Syrian conflict, I don’t expect a quick normalization process with the Assad regime apart from some bilateral engagements at the intelligence and security levels,” he said.

Dalay believes that the dip in support for Russia and the enhanced trust in Brussels does not mean more leverage for Washington over Ankara. 

“The reason is simple,” he said, “the EU is considered a domestic matter for Turkey thanks to its agency for uplifting the country’s democratic standards. However, the relationship with the US is often framed as a foreign policy and security matter where both sides have seen serious crises over the previous years. Therefore, the cautious stance in Turkey toward Washington is mostly linked with the traces that were left from the latest diplomatic blows.”

Yemen’s Taiz mourns 2 children who committed suicide

Yemen’s Taiz mourns 2 children who committed suicide
Updated 11 sec ago

Yemen’s Taiz mourns 2 children who committed suicide

Yemen’s Taiz mourns 2 children who committed suicide
  • Calls grow for deeper investigation into motivations and protection of youngsters amid shock and despair

AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: Security services of the southern Yemeni city of Taiz said that two children committed suicide in two separate events on Saturday, leaving the beleaguered population in shock and despair.

Police in Taiz said in a statement that they were notified of two suicide victims in the city on Saturday evening, citing the deaths as “dangerous precedents.”

Police named the first child as 12-year-old Kareem Abdul Kareem from the Al-Jamhuria neighborhood, who hanged himself inside his room on Saturday afternoon by tying a scarf around his neck.

Ammar Khaled, a 16-year-old who committed suicide on Saturday evening by wrapping a rope around his neck and tying it to a door outside his family’s home, is the second victim. 

After forensic investigators gathered photographs and evidence, his family requested his burial on the same day. 

Police in Taiz pledged to investigate the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the victims and have asked the community and professionals for assistance in determining the reasons behind the suicides.

In a statement, police urged both authorities and members of the public “to collaborate…in order to provide the appropriate answers.”

Mohammed Alawi, an investigator with police in Taiz, told Arab News that a team, including social and psychiatric professionals, was looking into the cases and would release their findings this week.

Initially, Alawi ruled out the possibility of cyberbullying or even sexual harassment and attributed the deaths of the two children to the mobile game PUBG. 

“These are risky games, and we advise parents to monitor their children’s mobile devices to see what they are seeing or playing,” Alawi said.

He also touched on other instances of suicide, which he blamed on psychological suffering caused by the war.

“Women and children in Yemen, particularly in besieged Taiz, have suffered emotionally because of the war. We had never seen such crimes before the war,” he said.  

On social media, the police statement and photographs of the two deceased children have elicited condolences for the families and calls for an investigation into the motivations behind the suicides and for the protection of children.

“You should investigate with the family about the electronic games they played, such as PUBG, and whether they have Facebook or WhatsApp accounts,” said Adnan Taha on Facebook.

“All communications should be reviewed, since (the children) may be vulnerable to harassment and extortion,” Taha said.

Another social media user, Muneir Al-Qaisi, urged local security agencies not to bury the victims before autopsies are conducted to determine whether they consumed anything poisonous.

“We hope you will not hurry to bury them and (will) examine their bodies,” Al-Qaisi said. 

“It is conceivable that the parents are unaware of beverages or meals being shared among the children,” said Al-Qaisi.

Investigator Alawi responded to accusations of a hasty burial by stating that one of the boys was buried at the request of his family and only after investigators examined both the corpse and the scene.

“He was buried after forensic teams examined the scene, photographed it, and performed investigations. Additionally, his relatives requested burial from the prosecution,” Alawi said.

Lebanon hopes UNESCO danger listing could save crumbling modernist fairground

Lebanon hopes UNESCO danger listing could save crumbling modernist fairground
Updated 16 sec ago

Lebanon hopes UNESCO danger listing could save crumbling modernist fairground

Lebanon hopes UNESCO danger listing could save crumbling modernist fairground
TRIPOLI: Its arch is cracking and its vast pavilions lie empty, but the crumbling Rachid Karami International Fair in Lebanon’s port city Tripoli now has hope of revival, having been added to the United Nations’ list of world heritage sites in danger.
Designed by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer in 1962, the collection of structures on the 70-hectare plot is considered one of the key works of 20th century modernism in the Middle East.
But the fair park has slowly decayed due to repeated rounds of fighting over the last 60 years, poor maintenance and most recently Lebanon’s crippling, three-year-old financial crisis.
“It was placed on the World Heritage List exceptionally, quickly and urgently – and on the list of heritage in danger because it’s in a critical situation,” said Joseph Kreidi, UNESCO’s national program officer for culture in Beirut.
Its elegant arch is missing concrete in some parts, exposing the rebar underneath. Rainwater has pooled at the locked entrances. One section is sealed off by a sign that reads, “Unsafe building entry.”
“Placing it on the World Heritage Danger List is an appeal to all countries of the world, as if to say: this site needs some care,” said Kreidi.
He said it was up to the Lebanese authorities to draw together a plan for the site’s protection and rehabilitation but that UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural agency, could help search for funding and provide technical expertise.
Lebanon has five other sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage list, most of them citadels and ancient temples.
Niemeyer is recognized as one of the fathers of modern architecture and the site in Tripoli was an early foray into the Middle East.
Construction of the fairground began in the 1960s but was delayed when civil war erupted in Lebanon in 1975. Fighters used the site to stage operations and stored weapons underneath its concrete dome.
Mira Minkara, a freelance tour guide from Tripoli and a member of the Oscar Niemeyer Foundation’s Tripoli chapter, has fond – but rare – memories of the fairground as a child.
For the most part, it was off-limits to Tripoli’s residents given safety concerns. But Minkara remembered her first visit during a festival of pan-African culture and crafts.
She hopes that UNESCO’s recognition could bring new festivals, exhibitions and economic benefits to Tripoli – already one of the poorest cities on the Mediterranean before Lebanon’s financial meltdown began.
Lebanon’s cultural heritage has been hit hard in recent years. The 2020 Beirut port blast tore through 19th-century homes in historic neighborhoods and power outages caused by the financial crisis have cut supplies to the national museum.
“We hope things change a little,” Minkara said. “It’s high time for this fairground to emerge from this long sleep, this almost-death.”

Egypt cancels World Youth Forum in light of global challenges

Egypt cancels World Youth Forum in light of global challenges
Updated 17 min 44 sec ago

Egypt cancels World Youth Forum in light of global challenges

Egypt cancels World Youth Forum in light of global challenges
  • Budget for event will instead be used to fund development initiatives
  • Event was set to start later this month

CAIRO: In response to a host of global economic challenges, this year’s World Youth Forum, which was set to start later this month, has been canceled, its organizers said on Saturday.

Instead, the budget for the event, which was to be held in the Egyptian town of Sharm El-Sheikh, will be used to fund the implementation of five development initiatives aimed at young people in Egypt and beyond.

This year would have marked the fifth edition of the forum, with the fourth being held in January last year. The event is organized by the Presidential Program for Qualifying Youth for Leadership.

It said the decision to cancel this year's conference was an acknowledgment of the multiple crises facing the world that have put huge humanitarian and economic pressures on nations and governments.

Among the beneficiaries of the redirected funding is a series of international exchange programs for young people. These will be arranged in cooperation with the Decent Life Foundation, National Alliance for Civil Development Action, Arab Union for Volunteering and UN Volunteers Program.

Parliamentary Counselor Issam Hilal Afifi told Arab News that the proceeds from the sponsorship rights to this year’s forum would be redirected toward a large package of initiatives.

Dr. Muhammad Mahmoud Mahran, secretary-general of the International Committee for the Defense of Water Resources, said the move would also enable recommendations made at the previous forum to be implemented.

The planned initiatives would have a positive impact at the local, African and global level, he said.

Teachers, lawyers protest against Palestinian Authority 

Teachers, lawyers protest against Palestinian Authority 
Updated 26 min 51 sec ago

Teachers, lawyers protest against Palestinian Authority 

Teachers, lawyers protest against Palestinian Authority 
  • Palestinian sources told Arab News that a strike by doctors might follow, which will destabilize the status of the PA

RAMALLAH: The Palestinian Authority is facing protests from school teachers and lawyers over a number of grievances.

Palestinian sources told Arab News that a strike by doctors might follow, which will destabilize the status of the PA.

The teachers’ movement called on parents not to send their children to schools, and on students to only attend when their demands were met.

On Sunday morning, thousands of students returned to their homes because of the strike.

Omar Muheisen, a science teacher from Al-Shafei School in Hebron, told Arab News that the rate of commitment to the strike on Sunday in the city had reached 90 percent.

“We, as teachers, are living in a difficult predicament,” he told Arab News.

“It is not our problem if the prime minister, over the course of a whole year, did not succeed in solving the problem of teachers’ salaries,” he added.

Muheisen said the salary was not enough even to meet expenses until the middle of the month with outrageous rises in prices.

He said that the strike came after authorities failed to implement any previously agreed terms, including a 15 percent bonus starting from the first month of this year, and that the strike would continue until all their demands were met.

Teacher Jamal Al-Qaddoumi said that the agreement that was reached stipulated that the salary be regularized and a teachers’ union should be set up, but neither happened.

Al-Qaddoumi added the current salary was not sufficient to meet the needs of teachers, and it was not reasonable for teachers to work throughout the month on 85 percent of their salary. Half of Al-Qaddoumi’s income goes on bank loans, and the other half on bills and obligations, he said.

The Palestinian National Initiative Movement, headed by politician Mustafa Barghouthi, demanded fairness for teachers in a statement on Sunday, calling for their demands to be met and the education system to be saved in the interests of students.

It pointed out that the education and health sectors are among the most vital sectors, adding that male and female teachers had always performed their national and professional duties, and that their role was vital for building future Palestinian generations.

It stressed the importance of reviewing the public budget and allocating larger budgets for the education, health, and social welfare sectors, as they serve the broadest groups suffering most from poverty and marginalization.

Shaker Khalil, advisor to the prime minister on economic affairs, told Arab News that the financial crisis engulfing the PA is complex, due to the decline in external support and the high percentage of Israeli occupation deductions from Palestinian funds.

Khalil indicated that foreign aid for the past year was less than $200 million, and the total deductions of the Israeli occupation from the allocations of martyrs and prisoners amounted to $584 million since 2019.

This exacerbates the government’s financial crisis and is reflected in the general budget, he added.

In a parallel development, the Palestinian Bar Association suspended work on Sunday for four days, affecting all branches of the judiciary, in opposition to the amendment of the regular courts’ fees schedule.

Lawyer Alaa Khaseeb from Ramallah told Arab News that the PA’s doubling of court fees five times will make it difficult for citizens, considering the financial crisis they are living through, to go to court to sue, instead preferring to pursue matters themselves, which will negatively affect the work of lawyers, of whom there are nearly 12,000 in the West Bank.

Khaseeb indicated that the standard case fee, which was $700, is to become $3,500, making it impossible for many citizens to pay.

Lawyer and human rights activist Amer Hamdan from Nablus told Arab News that the basis of the PA’s problem with teachers and lawyers is poor political decision making.

He alleged that the PA had raised court fees to obtain money from citizens directly, a step that will force people to tribal courts or to seek fulfilment of their rights by force.

“The PA decided to go into the pockets of citizens to solve its financial problem,” Hamdan told Arab News.

The Bar Council also pointed out that the judiciary was in crisis as a result of the policies of the executive authority and its disavowal of the requirements for judicial reforms.

Sokhna port welcomes first cruise ships amid ongoing development

Sokhna port welcomes first cruise ships amid ongoing development
Updated 05 February 2023

Sokhna port welcomes first cruise ships amid ongoing development

Sokhna port welcomes first cruise ships amid ongoing development
  • Movement of vessels ‘working perfectly’ alongside construction, official says
  • More than 3,000 tourists arrived by ship on Saturday

CAIRO: Development work at the Suez Canal Economic Zone is progressing well, a senior official said, with the new berth at Sokhna port recently welcoming its first cruise ships.

Walid Youssef, deputy chairman of the southern part of the zone, said that the circulation and reception of vessels was “working perfectly” alongside the construction work, which was nearing completion.

The development included four new basins and 18 km of marine berths, as well as commercial and logistical areas covering 5.3 sq. km, he said.

The area is served by a rail network stretching 33 km, which also connects to the Sokhna-El Alamein electric train service.

Youssef said there was constant coordination with the relevant authorities to ensure the smooth operation of the port as the work progressed.

On Saturday, the port welcomed the cruise ship Splendida MSC with 2,826 passengers aboard. It was en route from Yanbu to Safaga.

It also received the Emerald Azzurra, carrying 75 tourists from Sharm El-Sheikh, and the Clio, which had traveled from Hurghada with 85 passengers.