The meeting’s final statement paved the way for the Geneva talks in late February 2017, between the political opposition and the regime. The statement also stressed the countries’ conviction ‘that there is no military solution to the Syrian conflict and that it can only be solved through a political process. Moreover, Ankara, Moscow and Tehran agreed to join forces to combat ISIS and to work on separating terrorist factions from armed opposition groups. Both sides welcomed the implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254 of December 2015, which sets out a roadmap for a peace process in Syria.
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Impunity for police abuses, even accusations of torture levelled at domestic security forces, is widespread. A stunning lack of accountability has been the legacy of the mass Gezi Park protests in 2013, with justice still lacking for the killing of a 14-year-old protestor and the severe assault of Hakan Yaman by Istanbul police officers.
Today, Russia has a presence in almost all of the Soviet Union’s former zones of influence, namely Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Algeria. Furthermore, it is getting closer to the other non-Arab hegemon apart from Iran; Turkey. The Middle East therefore represented the best forum for a show of force by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Ironically, it is the Arab Spring – which Russian media outlets criticize continuously – that has allowed Putin to achieve his goal.
As the war in Syria continues and with no end to Kurdish unrest in sight, Turkey’s reputation as a haven of stability and security looks weaker than ever. While Ambassador Karlov’s assassination has captured international attention, to rid itself of the terrorist threat, Turkey has far greater problems to solve.
Since 2013, the Turkish miracle has been fading. The massive ‘Gezi Park’ protests in the summer of that year resulted in an authoritarian drift that also hurt the country’s economy. Turkey’s slowdown is partly attributable to international factors like weak growth in the eurozone, the readjustment of US monetary policy, the Russian recession and the wars in Iraq and Syria. Now, interest rates are spiking, the economy is slowing and dollar-denominated loans are becoming impossible to service. Moreover, housing prices keep rising despite an excess real estate stock, which looks like a bubble. That’s the real risk: if there’s a bubble, and it bursts, that could unleash a chain reaction, political and economic
President Putin may feel justified in permitting himself a smile when reflecting on his foreign policy achievements in West Asia. Egypt has now moved closer to Russia and is prepared to further enhance its economic, military and political ties with Moscow. Turkey, a NATO member, appears to feel it could benefit from warmer relations with the Kremlin. And Syria, whatever shape or form a solution to the conflict there may take, has afforded Russia a direct military presence, and a firm foothold, in the eastern Mediterranean.
“Human rights in Turkey are in peril,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Director for Europe and Central Asia, only days after the failed coup on 15 July 2016. “The sheer number of arrests and suspensions is alarming. The coup attempt unleashed appalling violence, and those responsible for unlawful killings and other human rights abuses must be brought to justice, but cracking down on dissent and threatening to bring back the death penalty are not justice.”
For Turkey, reconciliation with Israel comes not just as the region is unravelling, but also as Ankara’s ties with other allies have frayed. But above all, the reconciliation is likely to have positive economic implications for both countries, providing a non-controversial platform for further contact in the coming years.
The sluggish and lukewarm response from the international community to the attempted coup, and the salvo of criticism that followed the widespread crackdown, made the president and his followers deeply suspicious of a potential global conspiracy against his regime. As tens of thousands of people are fired from Turkey’s public institutions, the country seems more isolated than ever.