Opinion and Editorial

Turkey is bullying Europe to fund its safe zone in Syria

Christiane Waked
Filed on November 12, 2019 | Last updated on November 12, 2019 at 07.57 pm

At present there are around 1,150 Daesh members imprisoned in Turkey.

Turkey has been threatening world leaders of exporting foreign members of Daesh. Süleyman Soylu, Turkish Interior Minister, announced on November 8 that his country would deport Daesh foreign prisoners even if they are stripped of their respective nationalities. It doesn't matter if England, France or for that matter any other state recognises the rights of its citizens, who had once been a part of Daesh, or not, Ankara simply plans to send them back. The decision apparently has already come into effect from November 10.

At present there are around 1,150 Daesh members imprisoned in Turkey. Of these, preparations are already underway to deport two Irish, 11 French, and three Danish citizens.

If you are thinking, why is Turkey taking such a brazen approach to diplomatic matters you need to understand the socio-economic conditions in the country. There are approximately 3.6 million Syrian refugees in Turkey. For a lot of these refugees Turkey wasn't a natural choice for asylum. It was Europe perhaps. But in 2016, when Europe was creaking under the influx of illegal migrants, it made a deal with Recep Tayyip Erdogan government and asked it to stop the flow of migrants to the continent. Turkey obliged, and in exchange it received ?6 billion and visa-free privilege for Turks to Europe. So far, so good. But over the last three years, mismanagement by Erdogan government has brought the Turkish economy to its knees. Inflation is running in double digits, debt levels are skyrocketing, and unemployment is on the rise. Instead of working to fix the economy, Erdogan government is looking to arm-twist European governments once again to fund its drive of creating a buffer zone in Syria.

After the US announced withdrawal of troops from Syria, Turkey took the opportunity to launch its military operation and annex border area with Syria. The plan is to dislodge Kurds from their homes in northeast Syria and annex half of Rojava to create a buffer zone. The Turkish military is targeting minorities such as Assyrian, Yezidis, and Arab population in the region, and hopes to relocate Syrian refugees who are presently in Turkey. But such an operation needs financial backing, which Turkey lacks, and that's why Erdogan's government is threatening European countries with deportation of Daesh members.

Erdogan thinks such arm-twisting would help push the European Union to finance his project of a safe zone, but the Turkish president seems to be missing a point: Threats unwittingly cause an endless power struggle.

Europe on the other hand must stand its ground and show Turkey that it cannot be coerced into doing what it wants. Meanwhile, Turkey's continuous aggression in northeast Syria is of serious concern as it violates the sovereignty of Syria. European Council President Donald Tusk during his visit to Cyprus last week voiced his concerns over this military operation. Tusk called Turkey to halt its military intervention in northeast Syria and chastised Erdogan for his threats of sending millions of refugees to Europe. Clearly, it's a message from the Union that it cannot be bullied.

Turkey has always aspired to be a part of the European Union, but it lacks the values that define European nations. Turkey invades other countries, commits ethnic cleansing and uses threats to intimidate other nations to advance its own political agendas.

Also Erdogan must understand how harmful it is to objectify the refugees and use them to blackmail world leaders.

Christiane Waked is a political analyst based in Beirut


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