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Middle East

Don’t Believe in Ankara’s Hoax about its Romance with NATO Allies

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Turkey must understand that Brussels, unlike Washington, is not a headquarter of diplomatic blunders and it cannot easily game-play Brussels.

This month NATO Summit was held in London and it marked its 70th Anniversary. Turkey, now a days,is busy persuading the people and all the international observers to believe in its fantasies and what it calls ‘the co-operation’ with its NATO counterparts simultaneously justifying its use of force in the Northern Syria over Kurds but the reality is altogether different.

The recent strain

After recent developments in Northern border of Syria by Turkey after US pulled its soldiers – which had allied with Kurdish Army and were fighting against ISIS from the border has seen sceptical reactions from many countries as well as various international organisations. Let us all remember the wise statement by former UN secretary general Kofi Annan – “No government has the rightto hide behind national sovereignty in order to violate the human rights”. I would suggest that the scope of national sovereignty in this context extends to “National Security” as well. Earlier UN humanitarian assistance had pointed in Security Council that the operation has exacerbated the safety and well‑being of the area’s 3 million residents and nearly 180,000 people have fled that border region in just two weeks after it began. Turkey describes northern Syria as a “security threat” for itself, but the offensive military operation which have had the severe effects on the people in the region surely suggests otherwise.

NATO and its members on Turkey Offensive

On the other hand, NATO chief not only had soon urged ‘restraint’ on its policies in Northern Syria but also emphasised on the “coordination with other allies” on the issue of Islamic State. Furthermore, NATO maintained a stand that ‘actions may further destabilise the region, escalate tensions, and cause more human suffering’. This is clear indication of tussle between Ankara and Brussels. Moreover, the disagreement by France and Belgium on the NATO’s “soft stand” on Ankara and accusing that the “soft stand” has been taken under US pressure is further indication that Ankara and its NATO counterparts are facing internal conflict. Surely this doesn’t suggest any like-mindedness between NATO and Turkey.

Turkey must always have one peculiar thing on tip of the finger that – Brussels, unlike Washington, is not a headquarter of diplomatic blunders and it cannot easily game-play Brussels.

The realitycheck of the vague arguments by Ankara

Turkey argues that commitment to destroy terrorism must be ‘thorough’, I would be surprised and would truly appreciate if Ankara could provide a “thorough” evidence that while going for operation, they had “thoroughly” considered civilian casualties that it could cause and had “thoroughly” considered NATO’s stand on the concerned issue. This is not to say that PKK has never done anything wrong. Cross border attacks have always been part of middle east, Northern Syria being no exception. Here, the question is solely of civilian casualties – of those who mayn’t be involved in any offense and have suffered unnecessarily. Any terrorist organisation should meet its fate, anyone who spreads terror shouldn’t be spared at all but while doing operations there should be maximum efforts to reduce civil casualties, human rights abuses, and destruction of innocent lives which in this case, Ankara seems to have neglected.
Also, indeed it is true that PKK present in Southern Turkey is an international terrorist organisation, but YPG – constituting SDF in Northern Syria, is not an internationally considered an offshoot of PKK as Ankara has argued in attempt to play cleverly with views of the people.

There are many Bone of Contentions between Brussels and Ankara

For anyone like me who is involved in diplomacy and international relations, it seems a humour when Ankara and Mr Erdogan boasts about the “co-operation” between NATO and Turkey. To begin with, on 29th November, Mr Erdogan called President Emmanuel Macron “brain dead” in the response to Mr Macron’s recent statement on NATO. This is not only unethical and unacceptable but also marks a “lack of communication” between highest leadership of both the countries. A wiser leader should be more cautious about the message he/she gives to his counterparts and international community – unlike many who now a days have a great reputation of committing diplomatic blunders – as it directly affects all the dialogues and at highest level political and diplomatic level. This is bound to escalate the tensions between Paris, one of the very prominent in NATO and Ankara.

Another recent example of this ‘lack of co-operation’ was seen on November 27 and December 10 when Turkey refused to back NATO’s defense plans. Ankara rejected the idea of backing NATO’s plans for Baltics and Poland. Ankara wants NATO to officially recognise YPG militia as a terrorist group and to gain political support for the same, Ankara has taken the step. This is a good example of how Turkey is pursuing quid pro quo with NATO. Recently, Polish official said “There is no going back from the decision made at NATO [last week during NATO summit]”. This is enough to prove the bone of contention between Turkey and its NATO counterpart. 

There have been many other incidences where there’s has been a ‘lack of co-operation’, for say – Ankara bought S-400 Air Missile Defense System from Moscow side-lining NATO’s view only to get suspension from US on F-35 program. The recent clash on migration issue is also to be seen in regard to lack of trust between Hungary, a member of NATO and Turkey. All these are enough to prove that there has been a lack of co-ordination between Ankara and various its NATO counterparts.

Democracy

Turkey has tried to make a “safer zone” for itself in its southern part which shares the border with norther part of Syria. This has to do with Erdogan’s domestic politics. He has been losing in recent elections in all major cities and it is an alarm for him to save his office. Moreover it’s an open secret that Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) which promised to reinforce the democracy and worked up on the same in the initial years have ended up now making Turkey a democratic state for name’s sake. The present authoritarian and totalitarian regime which used to get the success in election by polarisation of conservative-religious forces and liberal-progressive ones have not had a gala time since 2016 and the recent local election losses might just be a first baby-step of eradication of the polarisation, although it is highly likely that it is not going to get over sooner. Furthermore, the economic dwelling in the country possess a serious question among domestic observers and voters in the country about Erdogan’s present leadership.  

Erdogan has constantly talked about Turkey’s attempts to get a democratic Syria. The attempts by Ankara which is claims to be for ‘a democratic Syria’ seems no more than a cruel joke.

“Turkey should make itself a proper and healthy democracy first and then talk about having attempts to get a democratic Syria at its doorstep. International observers are wise enough to understand Ankara’s hypocrisy.”

Turkey ranks 110th out of 167 countries in Global Democracy Index 2018 Report. Its score declined for 6th time in a row indicating decline of democratic ideas and civil liberties in the country. There have been many incidents where journalists have been jailed, properties of political opponents have been seized and media has acted as a political puppet of current regime. These are surely not signs of a proper democratic country.

Alas! let the people not be fooled by Turkey on its relations with NATO.

Jaimin Parikh is a diplomatic researcher currently engaged with European Institute of Policy Research and Human Rights. He is also serving as an Expert Reviewer with Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

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Middle East

North Africa: Is Algeria Weaponizing Airspace and Natural Gas?

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In a series of shocking and unintelligible decisions, the Algerian Government closed its airspace to Moroccan military and civilian aircraft on September 22, 2021, banned French military planes from using its airspace on October 3rd, and decided not to renew the contract relative to the Maghreb-Europe gas pipeline, which goes through Morocco and has been up and running since 1996–a contract that comes to end on October 31.

In the case of Morocco, Algeria advanced ‘provocations and hostile’ actions as a reason to shut airspace and end the pipeline contract, a claim that has yet to be substantiated with evidence. Whereas in the case of France, Algeria got angry regarding visa restrictions and comments by French President Emmanuel Macron on the Algerian military grip on power and whether the North African country was a nation prior to French colonization in 1830.

Tensions for decades

Algeria has had continued tensions with Morocco for decades, over border issues and over the Western Sahara, a territory claimed by Morocco as part of its historical territorial unity, but contested by Algeria which supports an alleged liberation movement that desperately fights for independence since the 1970s.

With France, the relation is even more complex and plagued with memories of colonial exactions and liberation and post-colonial traumas, passions and injuries. France and Algeria have therefore developed, over the post-independence decades, a love-hate attitude that quite often mars otherwise strong economic and social relations.

Algeria has often reacted to the two countries’ alleged ‘misbehavior’ by closing borders –as is the case with Morocco since 1994—or calling its ambassadors for consultations, or even cutting diplomatic relations, as just happened in August when it cut ties with its western neighbor.

But it is the first-time Algeria resorts to the weaponization of energy and airspace. “Weaponization” is a term used in geostrategy to mean the use of goods and commodities, that are mainly destined for civilian use and are beneficial for international trade and the welfare of nations, for geostrategic, political and even military gains. As such “weaponization” is contrary to the spirit of free trade, open borders, and solidarity among nations, values that are at the core of common international action and positive globalization.

What happened?

Some observers advance continued domestic political and social unrest in Algeria, whereby thousands of Algerians have been taking to the streets for years to demand regime-change and profound political and economic reforms. Instead of positively responding to the demands of Algerians, the government is probably looking for desperate ways to divert attention and cerate foreign enemies as sources of domestic woes. Morocco and France qualify perfectly for the role of national scapegoats.

It may be true also that in the case of Morocco, Algeria is getting nervous at its seeing its Western neighbor become a main trade and investment partner in Africa, a role it can levy to develop diplomatic clout regarding the Western Sahara issue. Algeria has been looking for ways to curb Morocco’s growing influence in Africa for years. A pro-Algerian German expert, by the name of Isabelle Werenfels, a senior fellow in the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, even recommended to the EU to put a halt to Morocco’s pace and economic clout so that Algeria could catch up. Weaponization may be a desperate attempt to hurt the Moroccan economy and curb its dynamism, especially in Africa.

The impact of Algeria’s weaponization of energy and airspace on the Moroccan economy is minimal and on French military presence in Mali is close to insignificant; however, it shows how far a country that has failed to administer the right reforms and to transfer power to democratically elected civilians can go.

In a region, that is beleaguered by threats and challenges of terrorism, organized crime, youth bulge, illegal migration and climate change, you would expect countries like Algeria, with its geographic extension and oil wealth, to be a beacon of peace and cooperation. Weaponization in international relations is inacceptable as it reminds us of an age when bullying and blackmail between nations, was the norm. The people of the two countries, which share the same history, language and ethnic fabric, will need natural gas and unrestricted travel to prosper and grow and overcome adversity; using energy and airspace as weapons is at odds with the dreams of millions of young people in Algeria and Morocco that aspire for a brighter future in an otherwise gloomy economic landscape. Please don’t shatter those dreams!

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Middle East

Breaking The Line of the Israel-Palestine Conflict

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The conflict between Israel-Palestine is a prolonged conflict and has become a major problem, especially in the Middle East region.

A series of ceasefires and peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine that occurred repeatedly did not really “normalize” the relationship between the two parties.

In order to end the conflict, a number of parties consider that the two-state solution is the best approach to create two independent and coexistent states. Although a number of other parties disagreed with the proposal, and instead proposed a one-state solution, combining Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip into one big state.

Throughout the period of stalemate reaching an ideal solution, the construction and expansion of settlements carried out illegally by Israel in the Palestinian territories, especially the West Bank and East Jerusalem, also continued without stopping and actually made the prospect of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian crisis increasingly eroded, and this could jeopardize any solutions.

The attempted forced eviction in the Sheikh Jarrah district, which became one of the sources of the conflict in May 2021, for example, is an example of how Israel has designed a system to be able to change the demographics of its territory by continuing to annex or “occupy” extensively in the East Jerusalem area. This is also done in other areas, including the West Bank.

In fact, Israel’s “occupation” of the eastern part of Jerusalem which began at the end of the 1967 war, is an act that has never received international recognition.

This is also confirmed in a number of resolutions issued by the UN Security Council Numbers 242, 252, 267, 298, 476, 478, 672, 681, 692, 726, 799, 2334 and also United Nations General Assembly Resolutions Number 2253, 55/130, 60/104, 70/89, 71/96, A/72/L.11 and A/ES-10/L.22 and supported by the Advisory Opinion issued by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2004 on Legal Consequences of The Construction of A Wall in The Occupied Palestine Territory which states that East Jerusalem is part of the Palestinian territories under Israeli “occupation”.

1 or 2 country solution

Back to the issue of the two-state solution or the one-state solution that the author mentioned earlier. The author considers that the one-state solution does not seem to be the right choice.

Facts on the ground show how Israel has implemented a policy of “apartheid” that is so harsh against Palestinians. so that the one-state solution will further legitimize the policy and make Israel more dominant. In addition, there is another consideration that cannot be ignored that Israel and Palestine are 2 parties with very different and conflicting political and cultural identities that are difficult to reconcile.

Meanwhile, the idea of ​​a two-state solution is an idea that is also difficult to implement. Because the idea still seems too abstract, especially on one thing that is very fundamental and becomes the core of the Israel-Palestine conflict, namely the “division” of territory between Israel and Palestine.

This is also what makes it difficult for Israel-Palestine to be able to break the line of conflict between them and repeatedly put them back into the status quo which is not a solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

The status quo, is in fact a way for Israel to continue to “annex” more Palestinian territories by establishing widespread and systematic illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Today, more than 600,000 Israeli settlers now live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

In fact, a number of resolutions issued by the UN Security Council have explicitly and explicitly called for Israel to end the expansion of Israeli settlement construction in the occupied territory and require recognition of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of the region.

Thus, all efforts and actions of Israel both legislatively and administratively that can cause changes in the status and demographic composition in East Jerusalem and the West Bank must continue to be condemned. Because this is a violation of the provisions of international law.

Fundamental thing

To find a solution to the conflict, it is necessary to look back at the core of the conflict that the author has mentioned earlier, and the best way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is to encourage Israel to immediately end the “occupation” that it began in 1967, and return the settlements to the pre-Islamic borders 1967 In accordance with UN Security Council resolution No. 242.

But the question is, who can stop the illegal Israeli settlements in the East Jerusalem and West Bank areas that violate the Palestinian territories?

In this condition, international political will is needed from countries in the world, to continue to urge Israel to comply with the provisions of international law, international humanitarian law, international human rights law and also the UN Security Council Resolutions.

At the same time, the international community must be able to encourage the United Nations, especially the United Nations Security Council, as the organ that has the main responsibility for maintaining and creating world peace and security based on Article 24 of the United Nations Charter to take constructive and effective steps in order to enforce all United Nations Resolutions, and dare to sanction violations committed by Israel, and also ensure that Palestinian rights are important to protect.

So, do not let this weak enforcement of international law become an external factor that also “perpetuates” the cycle of the Israel-Palestine conflict. It will demonstrate that John Austin was correct when he stated that international law is only positive morality and not real law.

And in the end, the most fundamental thing is that the blockade, illegal development, violence, and violations of international law must end. Because the ceasefire in the Israel-Palestine conflict is only a temporary solution to the conflict.

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Middle East

Iran unveils new negotiation strategy

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Image source: Tehran Times

While the West is pressuring Iran for a return to the Vienna nuclear talks, the top Iranian diplomat unveiled a new strategy on the talks that could reset the whole negotiation process. 

The Iranian parliament held a closed meeting on Sunday at which Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian briefed the lawmakers on a variety of pressing issues including the situation around the stalled nuclear talks between Iran and world powers over reviving the 2015 nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

The Iranian foreign ministry didn’t give any details about the session, but some lawmakers offered an important glimpse into the assessment Abdollahian gave to the parliament.

According to these lawmakers, the Iranian foreign ministry addressed many issues ranging from tensions with Azerbaijan to the latest developments in Iranian-Western relations especially with regard to the JCPOA. 

On Azerbaijan, Abdollahian has warned Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev against falling into the trap set by Israel, according to Alireza Salimi, a member of the Iranian Parliament’s presiding board who attended the meeting. Salimi also said that the Iranian foreign minister urged Aliyev to not implicate himself in the “Americans’ complexed scheme.”

In addition to Azerbaijan, Abdollahian also addressed the current state of play between Iran and the West regarding the JCPOA.

“Regarding the nuclear talks, the foreign minister explicitly stated that the policy of the Islamic Republic is action for action, and that the Americans must show goodwill and honesty,” Salimi told Fars News on Sunday.

The remarks were in line with Iran’s oft-repeated stance on the JCPOA negotiations. What’s new is that the foreign minister determined Iran’s agenda for talks after they resume. 

Salimi quoted Abdollahian as underlining that the United States “must certainly take serious action before the negotiations.”

In addition, the Iranian foreign minister said that Tehran intends to negotiate over what happened since former U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the JCPOA, not other issues. 

By expanding the scope of negotiations, Abdollahian is highly likely to strike a raw nerve in the West. His emphasis on the need to address the developments ensuing the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA in May 2018 could signal that the new government of President Ayatollah Seyed Ebrahim Raisi is not going to pick up where the previous government left. 

This has been a major concern in European diplomatic circles in the wake of the change of administrations in Iran. In fact, the Europeans and the Biden administration have been, and continue to be, worried about two things in the aftermath of Ayatollah Raisi taking the reins in Tehran; one is he refusing to accept the progress made during six rounds of talks under his predecessor Hassan Rouhani. Second, the possibility that the new government of Ayatollah Raisi would refuse to return to Vienna within a certain period of time. 

With Abdollahian speaking of negotiation over developments since Trump’s withdrawal, it seems that the Europeans will have to pray that their concerns would not come true. 

Of course, the Iranian foreign ministry has not yet announced that how it would deal with a resumed negotiation. But the European are obviously concerned. Before his recent visit to Tehran to encourage it into returning to Vienna, Deputy Director of the EU Action Service Enrique Mora underlined the need to prick up talks where they left in June, when the last round of nuclear talks was concluded with no agreement. 

“Travelling to Tehran where I will meet my counterpart at a critical point in time. As coordinator of the JCPOA, I will raise the urgency to resume #JCPOA negotiations in Vienna. Crucial to pick up talks from where we left last June to continue diplomatic work,” Mora said on Twitter. 

Mora failed to obtain a solid commitment from his interlocutors in Tehran on a specific date to resume the Vienna talk, though Iran told him that it will continue talks with the European Union in the next two weeks. 

Source: Tehran Times

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