Turkey: All Change

By Glass, Charles | New Statesman (1996), June 12, 2006 | Go to article overview

Turkey: All Change


Glass, Charles, New Statesman (1996)


On her recent Turkish visit Israel's new foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, requested a sudden addition to the usual round of meetings with politicians: a trip to the tomb of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. This unexpected homage to the father of Turkish secularism prompted a columnist in The New Anatolian to ask: "Does this have a political connotation?" Does it ever.

Israel knows very well that these are hectic days for Turkey, mostly courtesy of war in Iraq. Turkey's Islamists, embodied in the ruling Justice and Development Party, and its secularists, represented in their purest if least democratic form by the army, are wrestling for the Turkish soul.

The old certainty was that co-operation with the United States and its Israeli ally was invariably in Turkey's interest; this has been shaken. Turkey welcomed a Hamas delegation after the Palestinian elections, opposed sanctions against the Palestinian Authority, and declared Israel's treatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories "state terrorism". What is more, the chaos in Iraq is pushing Turkey closer to its usually hostile neighbours Iran and Syria--both of which America's neo-cons have pledged to overthrow.

The US has turned Iraq's Kurds into Turkey's best-armed community, and they are inching towards the formal statehood promised to them under the Treaty of Sevres in 1920. Turkey, which blocked the Kurds then, will do all in its power to stop them now. …

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