Turkey’s latest moves in Libya and the eastern Mediterranean should be viewed in the context of the recent Kuala Lumpur Summit, which announced the emergence of a new ideological bloc to counter Saudi Arabia consisting of Iran, Turkey, Qatar, and Malaysia. Turkey’s new geopolitical strategy is as much ideological as it is “defensive.”
Turkey and Syria are now at war – but the ultimate arbiter of what happens next is likely to be Vladimir Putin.
Russia and Turkey are not natural partners in Syria, but share enough overlapping interests to maintain dialogue about the direction of the conflict. Ankara’s position in the Syrian civil war has been shaped by its initial risk averse approach to the conflict and refusal to use military force to try and shape outcomes. In eastern Syria, Ankara was initially unable to upend the American war strategy and its reliance on the Syrian Kurds, a group Turkey has labeled a terrorist organization. In Syria’s West, the Russian entrance into the war directly challenged Ankara’s support for the anti-regime insurgency, which had made considerable gains in Idlib before September 2015.
The Turkish admiral who masterminded Turkey’s maritime deal with Libya thinks the same agreement should also be signed with Israel. Many might be tempted to think there is too much metaphorical “bad blood” between Turkey and Israel to permit any degree of rapprochement. But subtle signs suggest this may not be the whole picture.
By Burak Bekdil
The January meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council focused, in part, on Turkey’s oil and gas drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean. High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell said the Working Party of Foreign Relations Counsellors (RELEX) is about to complete its package of sanctions against Turkey. It is compiling a list of individuals and companies on which restrictions will be imposed.
For the first time in Syria’s nine-year war, the Turkish military this week launched direct attacks on the Syrian army. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday that he ordered howitzers and F-16 fighter jets to hit President Bashar al-Assad’s forces near the Turkish border in response to the killing of eight Turkish soldiers in Idlib province in northwestern Syria.
Aron Lund is a fellow with The Century Foundation. In 2018–2020, his work on Syria is supported by a research grant from the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation.
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