Istanbul, Turkey – Ties between Turkey and its major allies could come under extreme strain after perceived lack of condemnation by the West as Friday’s bloody coup unfolded.
Turkish officials have admonished what they say was official silence from world powers as rogue soldiers took to the streets and aircraft bombed key institutions on Friday night through to the early hours of Saturday. The attempted coup left more than 260 dead.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) government are unlikely to forget any time soon.
The United States and EU nations have increased their criticism of Turkey’s moves domestically and internationally in recent years.
Many in the AKP’s electoral base, already deeply sceptical of Western intentions, will see this alleged inaction as further proof of their animosity, and the government won’t have trouble convincing them that fewer ties with the West is a better thing.
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“Every terrorism incident and this coup attempt can be traced and linked to international power centres,” Aziz Babuscu, an AKP parliamentarian from Istanbul, told Al Jazeera. “There is no need to name the international power centres … This is not the first time Turkey has been targeted by these centres in recent years.”
Babuscu said he believed it was too early to say how the Turkish government would react to this perceived lack of support, but added the stance of countries the government considered as allies was crystal clear.
“They developed a term for us during Ottoman times and called us the ‘sick man of Europe’. They would love for us to fit that definition even now,” Babuscu said. “These international centres of power find it impossible to stomach a Turkey that is a regional leader.”
Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday at an EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels the US was quick to respond to the coup attempt.
“We stand squarely on the side of the elected leadership in Turkey, which President Obama and I both stated in the course of events in the early hours as they were unfolding that night,” said Kerry.
“But we also firmly urge the government of Turkey to maintain calm and stability throughout the country … and uphold the highest standards of respect for the nation’s democratic institutions and the rule of law.”
Retired Turkish diplomat Yalim Eralp, who has served as Turkey’s ambassador to NATO, Washington, and the United Nations, warned that emotional responses by Ankara would be detrimental.
“No government in the world will issue a statement while a coup is under way. It doesn’t matter if it is in Turkey or anywhere else. I don’t think the Turkish government should be offended by this,” Eralp told Al Jazeera.
On Saturday, Labour Minister Suleyman Soylu accused the United States of being directly involved in the coup attempt during an appearance on local television.
According to Eralp, accusing Washington of involvement is a grave error and a diplomatic faux pas.
“I hope the Turkish government reacts sensibly,” said Eralp. “However, my experience tells me that no Turkish government tries to see whether its own shortcomings resulted in a certain situation. They always and always try to put the blame on others.”
Turkey’s relations with the West, particularly the United States, have not been amicable for a few years now.
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The divergent approach to the conflict in Syria and in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group has created a serious rift between Ankara and Washington.
US support for the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in northern Syria to aid in the fight against ISIL has angered Ankara immensely.
Turkey sees the PYD as the extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and, therefore, a “terrorist” entity as well. The United States and the European Union also define the PKK as a “terrorist group”, but don’t extend it to the PYD.
The same tensions exist with the EU. Last week Turkey strongly objected to a photo exhibit inside the European Parliament, which contained images of YPG fighters.
Previously Ankara was ferocious in its condemnation of Brussels in March for allowing a group sympathetic to the PKK to set up a tent as a Turkey-EU summit was about to begin to finalise a vital deal on migrant movement.
But what is likely to cause the most friction between Ankara and Washington for the foreseeable future is the extradition status of Turkish Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen.
Erdogan and the AKP see Gulen, who has been living in self-imposed exile in the US state of Pennsylvania since 1999, as the main force behind the attempted coup.
Ankara has tried to extradite him since 2013 when the former Erdogan ally – who turned into the president’s main foe after elements in the police and judiciary alleged to be his followers launched a major corruption probe into Erdogan’s inner circle, including some ministers.
Ankara accuses Gulen of orchestrating a movement seeking to infiltrate Turkish state mechanisms and topple the government from within.
The United States has so far refused to extradite Gulen, but Kerry said Washington would consider an extradition if compelling evidence was presented.
Kerry also warned that public insinuations about US involvement in the attempted coup would harm bilateral relations.
Eser Karakas, an economics professor at Istanbul University, said Turkey’s future is anchored to good ties with the United States and the European Union.
“I don’t know who is behind the coup, but I do know that blaming the US will cause great damage to Turkey. For a more democratic, freer, richer and safer Turkey, Ankara needs to remain part of the Western alliance,” Karakas told Al Jazeera.
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