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AGGRESSIVE AND RESISTANTAn interiew with KAREN VERANYAN, an expert with the Orbeli analytical-research center


Part II:


Q: What are Turkey’s objectives in the Middle East and North Africa?

A: Turkey’s involvement in the Middle East, the Eastern Mediterranean, North Africa in various processes and mediated conflicts stems from that country’s ambitions to become a superpower in these regions. On the one hand, Ankara seeks to assume the role of leader of the Arab and Muslim world, on the other hand, it strengthens its position in the region at the expense of different parts of the Arab world. Turkey is engaged in the wars in Syria, Iraq and Libya, Ankara’s intentions to mobilize the Arab world are not sincere. If we take only Syria, then Turkey has repeatedly violated the territorial integrity of that country, occupied territories in that country under the pretext of ‘threats’ coming from Syria, calling them a security zone. Turkey is carrying out illegal activities in the Eastern Mediterranean, in particular, it is carrying out illegal drilling in the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus.

These issues are directly related to 2009-2010 discovery of large natural gas reserves of about 1.2 trillion cubic meters in the Israeli coastal areas of the Mediterranean, as well as in Cyprus. In early December of 2017, Cyprus, Greece and Israel and Italy and signed a memorandum on the construction of the EastMed gas pipeline, which will bring gas from Israel to the European market through Cyprus and Greece.

In addition to the neo-Ottoman ambitions, in Africa, particularly in Libya, Ankara pursues other political, economic and energy interests of strategic and regional importance. In November of 2019, Ankara and Tripoli signed two memoranda of understanding on security, military cooperation and clarification of maritime borders. According to the first memorandum, Turkey had the right to send troops, vehicles and military equipment to Libya if the government of the Libyan National Accord made such a request. As expected, the Turkish Parliament ratified the Memorandum of Understanding on Security and Military Cooperation. The agreement to clarify the maritime borders in the Mediterranean has been criticized by the Greek, Cypriot and Israeli governments. And the obvious dissatisfactions of the latter are understandable. The problem is that the Turkish-Libyan border demarcation memorandum in the Mediterranean obviously hinders the implementation of the EastMed gas pipeline project. According to the project, the pipeline will pass through the intersection of exclusive economic zones defined by Turkey and Libya. Erdogan justifies this step by the fact that Turkey has the longest coast in the Mediterranean Sea, which, according to him, allows to have adequate political and legal ambitions in this region. On December 9, 2019,  Erdogan announced that other international players could not operate in the Eastern Mediterranean without Turkey’s consent.

The context of cooperation with Libya is not limited to maritime demarcation and protection of energy interests in the Mediterranean. The agreement on security and military cooperation shows Ankara’s real and far-reaching ambitions in the Libyan direction. It is clear that with the document, Erdoոgan is trying to secure his military, military-political presence in Libya from the point of view of international law, and today to substantiate his long-term goals in that direction. Besides, Turkey is very interested in Libyan oil.

Erdogan seeks to create the image of a new Ataturk.

Q: Is it possible that Erdogan’s ambitious will turn against the Turkish state? What are the political, legal and economic sanctions against Turkey’s destabilizing and aggressive actions? To what extent are they applied?

A: It has been said for years that the Kurdish national liberation struggle will destroy Turkey from within. There were even giving definite periods when this would happen. Of course, this danger hangs on the Turkish statehood and territorial integrity. But on the other hand, we should not ignore the fact that today’s Turkey is able to restrain the internal resistance. As for foreign risks, I should mention that Erdoոgan’s neo-Ottoman ambitions have started to worry various leading players in the region. The development of anti-Turkish coalitions and processes follows from this logic. We can already say that Erdogan has triggered anti-Turkey sentiment. The question is how the process of confrontation of interests between the parties will go. Much depends on the mood of the anti-Turkish processes and further steps.

In general, the international community has taken a rather passive and consistent stance on Turkey’s blatant violations of international law. However, it should be noted that the EU is more persistent in imposing sanctions on Turkey.

Northern Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania and Iceland have joined the EU sanctions against Turkey in connection with Turkey’s illegal exploration and drilling operations in the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus. Let me mention that Armenia has also joined them.

The European Union has taken restrictive measures against the management of the Turkish state oil company.

The EU Council has decided to suspend the signing of a comprehensive air transport agreement and high-level EU-Turkey talks. The European Investment Bank has been advised to review its credit policy in Turkey.

In late 2019, the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a bill that would impose sanctions on Turkey for the purchase of Russian C-400 air defense systems for military intervention in northern Syria.

The United States has suspended the supply of 100 F-35 fighter jets to Turkey, withdrawing the country from its plan to produce fifth-generation fighter jets.

But, unfortunately, these sanctions are not enough to restrain Turkey’s policy of destabilization in the region and to give an adequate assessment to the violations of international law, to start preventive, restraining processes.

Q: Turkey, which has taken part in various conflicts, naturally seeks to invest its military experience in Azerbaijan, which is a threat not only to us but also to regional players. What countermeasures are being taken?

A: I agree. Turkey will try to pass on its experience and capabilities in various mediated conflicts in Syria and Libya to its younger brother. This is a direct threat to the security of Armenia and the region, it is clearly realized both in Armenia and in other countries of the region, first of all in Iran and Russia. Our task is to study Turkey’s strategy and tactics, military equipment and methods of application, especially in the field of ATS. I think practical steps are already being taken in that direction. It is enough to remember the joint Armenian-Russian military exercises, during which the possibilities of responding to the joint air defense system of the two countries were studied. I think they were first of all aimed at studying the mechanisms of counteraction to Turkish ATS. Let us not forget that Turkey recently signed an agreement with Azerbaijan on the supply of modern Bayraktar ATS of its production.




Category: #33 (1353) 19.08.2020 - 25.08.2020, Spotlight, Region