SA Needs to Balance Its Foreign Policy as Turkey Adopts Aggressive Stance

Cape Times (South Africa), June 26, 2018 | Go to article overview

SA Needs to Balance Its Foreign Policy as Turkey Adopts Aggressive Stance


It appears that BRICS members are to discuss Middle East peace extensively in the upcoming summit for the bloc of developing nations to be held in Sandton from July 25-27.

Last week, SA Deputy Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Llewellyn Landers hosted the fourth meeting of the BRICS Deputy Ministers on the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) at Dirco.

As BRICS special envoys remained concerned about the political and security situation in the region, it shows that situations in Yemen, Iraq, Libya and Syria are now out of control and countries from Brazil to India cannot turn a blind eye to this volatile region.

As Russia holds military bases in Syria and remains a staunch supporter of the Bashar al-Assad regime, Syria might be the centre of the battleground among big powers in the near future. In this regard, analysing recent close relations between Turkey and Russia will be important for global players to predict the political future of the Middle East. Compared to other conflict areas, the situation in Syria is the worst as the world's two strongest military powers, the US and Russia, are very active in the country.

In World War II, France and Britain took over a large part of the Mena region from the then Ottoman Empire. Today, these countries maintain a strong interest in the region. Of course, big powers abstain from conflicting with each other in this volatile region and use native partners instead. The US and other Western powers support Kurdish fighters, while some Gulf countries support Islamist groups, especially Qatar and Turkey.

Except for during Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's Islamist rule, Turkey has always been a key country between East and West. During the initial stages of the Arab Spring, Turkey was lauded globally as a role model, able to combine Islam and democracy. But following the 2013 corruption case against Turkey's ruling party, the AKP,Erdogan has turned autocratic and has resorted to heavily punishing his critics, especially those allied with the West.

The July 15 coup attempt is the turning point in modern Turkish history. Erdogan blamed Turkish political figure Fethullah Gulen for the coup attempt. Gulen denies all allegations. British, German and US intelligence reported that Gulen was not the mastermind of the coup. Russian President Vladimir Putin also said that Gulen didn't organise the coup attempt. Besides shutting down 170 critical media houses, Turkey's Coup Commission wrapped up with little outcome.

Turkish authorities recently arrested journalist Ece Sevim Ozturk, who was investigating the coup attempt, displaying that it was almost impossible to conduct a free and fair investigation of the coup. Turkish security analyst Emre Uslu, who is self-exiled in the US, said the July 15 attempt reflected the power struggle between Euro-Asia-Iranian groups and Nato supporters in the Turkish army.

Uslu claimed that Erdogan knew of the coup attempt before, but that he did not organise it as he wouldn't take such a risk. …

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