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)
Short Url
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.”


Port director general dismissed after Aqaba investigation findings of deadly gas leak

Port director general dismissed after Aqaba investigation findings of deadly gas leak
Updated 25 sec ago

Port director general dismissed after Aqaba investigation findings of deadly gas leak

Port director general dismissed after Aqaba investigation findings of deadly gas leak

Jordanian Prime Minister, Bishr al-Khasawneh, said on Sunday that the Director General of the Ports Management and Operations Company and a group of officials in the company have been dismissed due to findings of the Aqaba gas leak incident. 

Thirteen people were killed, including at least four Asian migrants, when toxic chlorine gas escaped on the dockside in the Jordanian Red Sea port of Aqaba last week.

The Director General of the Maritime Authority has also been dismissed following the report's findings. 

Khasawneh said that the Aqaba incident report, in all its details, will be referred to the Public Prosecution. 

He added that the investigation found major "inability and failure in safety procedures and dealing with hazardous materials in the port."

The results of the investigation will be announced with full transparency to public opinion.

 


Shark attack kills two women in Egypt’s Red Sea: ministry

Shark attack kills two women in Egypt’s Red Sea: ministry
Updated 51 min 46 sec ago

Shark attack kills two women in Egypt’s Red Sea: ministry

Shark attack kills two women in Egypt’s Red Sea: ministry
  • All beaches in the area have been closed down

CAIRO: Two women were killed in a shark attack in a resort town on Egypt’s Red Sea coast, the environment ministry said Sunday, after video said to be of one attack emerged.
“Two women were attacked by a shark while swimming” in the Sahl Hasheesh area south of Hurghada, the Egyptian ministry said on Facebook, adding that they had both died.
The statement did not provide any detail on their identities.
But Red Sea governor Amr Hanafi had ordered on Friday the closure of all beaches in the area for three days after “an Austrian tourist had her left arm torn off, seemingly in a shark attack.”
Social media users on Friday had shared a video — the authenticity, date and location of which AFP could not independently verify — showing a swimmer struggling before what appeared to be a pool of blood emerged around her.
A task force is working to “identify the scientific causes and circumstances of the attack” and determine “the reasons behind the shark’s behavior that resulted in the incident,” the environment ministry said.
The Red Sea is a popular tourist destination, where sharks are common but rarely attack people swimming within authorized limits.
In 2018, a Czech tourist was killed by a shark off a Red Sea beach. A similar attack killed a German tourist in 2015.
In 2010, a spate of five attacks in five days unusually close to the shore of tourist hotspot Sharm el-Sheikh killed one German and injured four other foreign tourists.
Egypt is currently struggling to overcome rising inflation and a recent currency depreciation.
The country relies heavily on tourism revenues from the Red Sea, which accounts for some 65 percent of tourists visiting the country.
The tourism industry has been battered by successive blows over the past decade, including the country’s 2011 uprising, ensuing unrest and the coronavirus pandemic.


Iran purges security apparatus amid Israeli espionage fears

Iran purges security apparatus amid Israeli espionage fears
Updated 03 July 2022

Iran purges security apparatus amid Israeli espionage fears

Iran purges security apparatus amid Israeli espionage fears
  • IRGC intelligence chief sacked after assassinations, document leaks embarrass regime

LONDON: The Iranian regime has purged senior leaders in its security apparatus, including a general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, amid fears that Israeli espionage has caused a recent spate of blunders and assassinations, the Telegraph reported.

The British daily said a senior general in the IRGC had been arrested on suspicion of spying for Israel a week after the corps’ intelligence boss Hossein Taeb lost his job. 

Taeb was fired after several embarrassing security blunders, with Israeli officials describing the Iranian regime as “shocked” and “rattled.”

Israel scuppered an Iranian plot to kill Israelis in Turkey, publicly warning its citizens of an imminent attack and arresting several people allegedly linked with IRGC cells.

In May, Israel published a collection of Iranian documents that detailed threats to its nuclear program.

More recently — and most troublingly for the regime — two nuclear scientists were poisoned and killed at separate dinner parties, which Tehran suspects was carried out by Israel.

Israeli officials told the Telegraph that the recent mixture of information and attacking operations were part of a strategy called the “Octopus doctrine,” which compares the regime’s leadership to the head of an octopus and its various proxies and forces — such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and the IRGC across the region — as the tentacles.

But rather than limiting the effect of those tentacles, Israeli forces are now shifting to directly striking the head of the beast.

“The Iranians saw all of that information released by Israel as a huge slap in the face. And they were shocked. They were rattled by it,” an Israeli security official told the Telegraph, adding that the doctrine “has proven to be effective. It has caused shockwaves throughout the leadership of Iran.” 

Iran analysts told the Telegraph that Taeb was a major figure in Tehran’s leadership, enjoying a close relationship with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

“His unceremonious sacking heralds more political purges within the regime as it faces growing domestic discontent and challenges to its regional policy,” said Dr. Reza Taghizade, a London-based Iran observer.

Dr. Kylie Moore-Gilbert, an Australian-British academic and former hostage of the regime, said Taeb was referred to as “The Judge” because he observed interrogation and hostage practices.

“Most theories for Taeb’s removal are due to IRGC Intel’s inability to prevent Israel from operating inside Iran’s borders, including conducting high-profile assassinations,” said Moore-Gilbert. 

“The IRGC Intelligence Organization is not a professional intelligence agency, its members are recruited on the basis of ideological and religious affiliation, and everything is kept ‘in the family’ — you have to have contacts and already know people on the inside in order to get a foot in the door,” she added.

“As a result, many of its operatives are incompetent and poorly skilled for the job. Many of them lack a security mindset or a proper understanding of the conduct of espionage.”


Israel says it will test bullet that killed reporter, Palestinians disagree

Israel says it will test bullet that killed reporter, Palestinians disagree
Updated 03 July 2022

Israel says it will test bullet that killed reporter, Palestinians disagree

Israel says it will test bullet that killed reporter, Palestinians disagree

JERUSALEM/RAMALLAH: Israel said on Sunday it would test a bullet that killed a Palestinian-American journalist to determine whether one of its soldiers shot her and said a US observer would be present for the procedure that could deliver results within hours.
The Palestinians, who on Saturday handed over the bullet to a US security coordinator, said they had been assured that Israel would not take part in the ballistics.
Washington has yet to comment. The United States has a holiday weekend to mark July 4.
The May 11 death of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh during an Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank, and feuding between the sides as to the circumstances, have overshadowed a visit by US President Joe Biden due this month.
The Palestinians accuse the Israeli military of killing her deliberately. Israel denies this, saying Abu Akleh may have been hit by errant army fire or by one of the Palestinian gunmen who were clashing with its forces.
“The (ballistic) test will not be American. The test will be an Israeli test, with an American presence throughout,” said Israeli military spokesman Brig.-General Ran Kochav.
“In the coming days or hours it will be become clear whether it was even us who killed her, accidentally, or whether it was the Palestinian gunmen,” he told Army Radio. “If we killed her, we will take responsibility and feel regret for what happened.”
Akram Al-Khatib, general prosecutor for the Palestinian Authority, said the test would take place at the US Embassy in Jerusalem.
“We got guarantees from the American coordinator that the examination will be conducted by them and that the Israeli side will not take part,” Al-Khatib told Voice of Palestine radio, adding that he expected the bullet to be returned on Sunday.
An embassy spokesperson said: “We don’t have anything new at this time.”
Biden is expected to hold separate meetings with Palestinian and Israeli leaders on July 13-16. The Abu Akleh case will be a diplomatic and domestic test for new Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid.
Israeli Deputy Internal Security Minister Yoav Segalovitz said Lapid had been involved in “managing the arrival and transfer of this bullet.”
“It will take a few days to conduct a ballistic test, with several experts, to ensure that there is an unequivocal assessment,” Segalovitz told Army Radio.


Tunisian constitution committee head blasts president’s latest draft

Sadok Belaid submitting a draft of the new constitution to President Kais Saied (L) in Tunis. (AFP file photo)
Sadok Belaid submitting a draft of the new constitution to President Kais Saied (L) in Tunis. (AFP file photo)
Updated 03 July 2022

Tunisian constitution committee head blasts president’s latest draft

Sadok Belaid submitting a draft of the new constitution to President Kais Saied (L) in Tunis. (AFP file photo)
  • Belaid said the final constitution published by the president contains chapters that could pave the way for “a disgraceful dictatorial regime”

TUNIS: The head of Tunisia’s constitution committee blasted the proposed constitution published by President Kais Saied this week, local Assabeh newspapers reported on Sunday.
Sadok Belaid, a former constitutional law professor was named by Saied to draft a “new constitution for new republic,” said Saied’s version was dangerous and did not resemble the first draft proposed by the constitution committee.
Belaid said the final constitution published by the president contains chapters that could pave the way for “a disgraceful dictatorial regime.”
The president has not commented on the constitution since he published the text on Thursday in Tunisia’s official gazette. The constitution would give Saied far more powers and will be put to a referendum next month.