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The End Of Turkey’s Ottoman Dreams

Ceding to Russia's influence in Syria is a “rare public humiliation,' for Erdogan and his ambitions to make Turkey a world diplomatic power.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul on Dec. 22
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul on Dec. 22
Ozgur Mumcu


ISTANBUL — Although he later tried to correct himself, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is on the record saying these simple words: "We have entered Syria to end the rule of Assad, nothing else." Let me remind you that the word of a president, prime minister and foreign affairs minister is binding for the state under international law. It is clear that people at such positions should repeat this simple rule of law to themselves everyday in the mirror while shaving. They are frequently confused about the difference of making a populist speech at the square of a small town and governing a state.

Turkey, alongside Russia and Iran, declared this week in Moscow that their aim is not to seek a regime change in Syria after all these years of Ankara's: "Assad this' Assad that" fuss. It is a "public humiliation that is rare to be observed" according to a foreign analyst. It is truly rare that a state reverse its foreign policy stance in such a hurry. And what about the statement of Defense Minister Fikri Isik? "There is a very successful ongoing operation to clear Aleppo from militants." As if he would join the army of Assad to march under the protection of Russian planes.

The social media followers of Turkey's leading Justice and Development Party (AKP) were lamenting for Aleppo just a day ago, the pro-government media was crying for Aleppo, posters calling Putin a murderer were hung at state schools in Ankara ... and all of a sudden the government pledged allegiance to Russia. The Islamist voters of the government are confused. They were left alone once again after the government disowned the Mavi Marmara because it came to terms with Israel. Dreams of praying at an Emevi mosque in Damascus is canceled.

The role Erdogan's AKP was yearning for since the beginning of the Arabi Spring is no more. Both the screenwriter and director of the movie has changed. Therefore the casting is very much different, too. After its passive stance during the Cold War, Turkey was going to again be influential in its region, and beyond. "Not a leaf will stir in the Middle East without Ankara hearing of it and responding..." Right? The old Turkey of the secular elite was no more; Turkey was now going to be commanding others. Yes? It was a "decision that comes from the skies' as in the poem Erdogan read out loud.

People had said these were all lies, warned that opening the borders and turning a blind eye to jihadists would have serious consequences; foreign policy, others noted, is not a field to play out your adolescent Islamist fantasies. But these critics were labeled "traitors." Now, you are in Moscow, next to Putin, praising Assad's Aleppo operation. We do not deserve to be governed by such insufficient, incapable, and unscrupulous policies. In reference to the UN Security Council's permanent members, you once said: "The world is greater than five." That is correct. And Turkey is greater than you. You do not have anywhere to run. First, you must clear the wreckage you have caused.

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Kyiv Reality Check: What Ukraine's Friends Say Out Loud — And Whisper To Each Other

Europe's foreign ministers traveled together to Kyiv yesterday to reaffirm their support for Ukraine. It is necessary after the first signs of "fatigue" in Western support, from a Polish about-face to the victory of a pro-Russian prime minister in Slovakia.

photo of Josep Borrell listening to Zelensky speak

EU's chief of foreign affairs Josep Borrell and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky during the EU-Ukraine meeting in Kyiv

Johanna Leguerre, EU foreign ministry via ZUMA
Pierre Haski


PARIS — The symbolism is strong: for the first time ever, Europe's foreign ministers meet in a country outside the European Union. But it looks like a diplomatic ‘Coué’. The Coué method, named for a French psychologist, holds that a person tends to repeat a message to convince oneself as much as to convince others.

In Kyiv on Monday, the European foreign ministers solemnly reaffirmed their commitment to Ukraine, perhaps because it's suddenly no longer as obvious to them as to the rest of the world.

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There has indeed been some hesitation as of late; and it was undoubtedly time for this display of unity, which has stood as one of the major diplomatic achievements since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The Hungarian foreign minister was notably absent from the family photo, due to his "Putinophilia", and his Polish counterpart was officially ill, which happens to coincide with the recent Polish-Ukrainian quarrel. It's also a safe bet that, in a few weeks' time, the Slovakian minister could also be missing from such a gathering, following Sunday's election victory of the pro-Russian Robert Fico.

These nuances aside, there was a message of firmness in Kyiv, embodied by the bit of alliteration from German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who predicted that Europe that would soon go "from Lisbon to Luhansk" — Luhansk, in the Donbas region of Ukraine, currently annexed by Russia.

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