Turkey, as always, had a busy public agenda last week.
The tensions between Turkey and NATO continue to escalate, as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that Turkey would veto the membership application of Sweden and Finland.
The public rallies held by both the government and the opposition parties one after another, were considered as the unofficial start of the presidential election campaign. On the other hand, Numan Kurtulmus, the Vice President of the government party AKP, made some statements pointing out to the military buildup by the US Army on the Greek border.
Tensions rising between Turkey and NATO
The tensions between Turkey and the West further escalated with President Erdogan’s remarks, regarding the veto decision for the NATO membership application of Sweden and Finland.
The Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also made a statement condemning the support given by Finland and Sweden to the terrorist organizations against Turkey such as PKK/PYD/YPG, after President Erdogan’s similar statements.
After the statements of the Turkish authorities, there was a diplomatic traffic between Turkey and the Scandinavian countries that applied.
President Erdogan had a telephone conversation with the Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson.
The official news agency of the Turkish government Anadolu Agency shared the following information regarding the conversation:
Recep Tayyip Erdogan informed Magdalena Andersson about Turkish concerns regarding activities of the PKK/YPG and FETO terror groups in Sweden, and said that the NATO-applicant country should put an end to its financial, political and weapon support to such groups.
The Turkish president said Ankara has always supported NATO’s open-door policy, and that solidarity was essential for the security of member countries, as well as collective security.
Ankara expects Stockholm to take serious steps to address its concerns with regards to the terror groups, he said, adding that the claim that PKK/YPG was fighting the Daesh terror group, also known as ISIS, did not reflect the reality.
Swedish arms restrictions on Turkey was another subject brought up during the conversation. Erdogan said Turkey’s cross-border military campaigns in northern Syria were a result of a necessity caused by terror threat in the region, and Ankara expects Stockholm to lift the restrictions.
Andersson in a tweet appreciated the call, and said that Sweden looked forward “to strengthening our bilateral relations, including on peace, security, and the fight against terrorism.”
Speaking to public broadcaster SVT following the phone talk with Erdogan, Andersson said that her country openly supports the fight against terrorism and the PKK’s inclusion on the terrorist list.
“I emphasized that Sweden welcomes the possibility of cooperation in the fight against international terrorism and emphasized that Sweden is clearly behind the fight against terrorism and the terrorist listing of the PKK,” she said.
On the other hand, Minister Cavusoglu had a meeting with his American counterpart Antony Blinken in the last week. It has been revealed by the press that the application processes of Sweden and Finland into NATO was discussed along with the bilateral relations between Turkey and the US.
Speaking about the meeting, Cavusoglu made the following statements on the NATO “The support for the terrorist groups by our allies, or potential candidates, is absolutely unacceptable. This is not only a political support. For example, Sweden is also known to supply arms. They claim to give this support for their so-called fight against Daesh. But instead, they attack us, with these arms you supply them. Our security forces, soldiers and civilians are being killed with these weapons. On the other hand, it is unacceptable for an ally that wants to be an ally to impose restrictions on another ally with defence products. This restriction can only be applied to a hostile country. And their excuse is also our fight against the PKK. They see the PKK as closer to themselves than us. How can we accept this? And even if we accept this and let them to join NATO, they can seem to respect Turkey’s security concerns for a while, but can they still be trusted after they got what they need from us? Therefore, we want to be sure of that. Both a current ally and a country applying for NATO membership, maintain the same attitude it took after receiving full membership. It must be guaranteed.”
Devlet Bahceli, leader of the government allied Nationalist Movement Party, also joined the arguments on NATO. Bahceli, stating that the membership of Sweden and Finland to NATO could even provoke a global war, recalled the support given by NATO members to these terrorist organisations:
“Provoking Russia by taking NATO all the way to the borders of Russia with intentional and absurd arguments, will only exacerbate regional tensions, and in turn, while the war is going on in Ukraine will not serve world peace (…) In our opinion, the analyses and calls made on this issue have their own drawbacks in the process of Sweden and Finland’ application for NATO membership and they are as follows: In the case of full membership of these countries, Russia will be provoked militarily and politically (…) I warn everyone, the outcome of this is not peace, but a complete war. ”
The leader of the Vatan Party, Dogu Perincek also made a statement about the NATO arguments. Perincek, who opposes the membership of Sweden and Finland, called on the government to make a wise choice. Perincek used the following expressions; “As we all know, Mr. President gave a very logical response to the leaders of Sweden and Finland who wanted to come to Turkey, by saying, ‘Do not even bother coming all the way, it is not possible for you to change our mind about this’ and basically fulfilled Turkey’s diplomatic needs.
But as we all know, there are still some negotiators within the AK Party. These negotiators met at SETA some time ago. We crushed that SETA in a single blow. Now these SETA members continue this bargaining attitude from where there were scattered. What will you negotiate for? Is it possible to negotiate on Turkey’s security and territorial integrity? Can you negotiate with NATO?”
Perincek continued his speech as follows: “America and NATO have drawn their weapons on Turkey, and at this point, where they come upon us with FETO and the PKK, after placing all those military bases to protect them, there is no such thing as a balance policy, there is no bargaining policy. The right policy for Turkey is to leave NATO at once.”
Election rallies from government and opposition parties
Under normal circumstances, the presidential elections in Turkey are scheduled to be held in June 2023.
While the government and opposition parties started to organise rallies as preparation for the elections, some brought up the question of an early election.
The AKP organised a youth festival in Adana Province with the participation of President Erdogan.
“I see a youth from TEKNOFEST in front of me. You have the intelligence, you have the will and you have the faith. When we first shared our 2023 goals with our nation 11 years ago, someone accused us of coming up with dreams. While realizing these goals one by one, we set even bigger goals for our youth. We build all our dreams with our youth, we set our goals with our youth and we make all our preparations according to the youth.”
Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the main opposition party CHP, addressed the public at a rally held in Istanbul.
Kilicdaroglu used the following expressions in his speech; “Our country is in a severe economic crisis. This is the result of turning one’s back against the rights of the people. Millions of families cannot live in severe poverty, inflation is at 150 percent, and they see even the smallest increase in pensioners’ holiday bonuses, as a burden. 70 percent of our youth wants to migrate abroad. 550,000 of them have already done so. We are all tired of their heroic slogans and lies.” Kilicdaroglu added “I would also like to call on for the conservative youth. Do not say ‘I am undecided in this election’. Ignorance will be our end.”
Turkey’s criticism on the US over Greece
AKP Deputy Chairman Numan Kurtulmuş criticised the US military buildup on the Turkish-Greek border in a television program last week.
Kurtulmus stated; “All these bases, the militarised Greek islands. What are they for, for God’s sake?
What security standards of NATO would this build-up meet? Will the bases here be used against Russia? This is all obvious. Turkey is well-aware of the intentions of this military build-up around Turkey. In this sense, this is used to intimidate or siege Turkey in some way or practically to put Turkey under pressure from outside. If we are a member of NATO, that is an alliance lasted for years, and if we are talking about common interests, it is very clear that this militarisation on the Greek border, in Dedeagac (Alexandroupolis) or in the Aegean Islands, it clearly does not serve the common interests between Turkey and NATO or between Turkey and Greece. Therefore, we see what is going on behind the scenes. This is not the right approach of them. Nor is it a security measure considered as a part of NATO security concerns. What are these bases doing right under our noses, from whom will they protect, or who will they protect in the first place? We need to see these things very clearly.”
Kurtulmuş also added that “some NATO members” are striving for a deepening of the war in Ukraine.
“Entire world has to keep an eye on this. Instead of creating new zones of conflicts and tensions, we need to come up with a new global understanding that can eliminate all these conflicts from beginning in the first place. There is also another issue: Conflicts and wars practically come out of instability and an imbalance in the global system. Unfortunately the global system has not reached such a balance yet, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. And it seems that this imbalance will remain for many decades.”