Economist.com/ Turkey and Europe Problems with neighbours

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SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association)

THE fallout from Turkey’s relations with Islamic State (IS) knows no end. Its global image is in tatters amid persistent claims of secret dealings with the jihadists, which Turkey denies. Shaky peace talks with the Turkish Kurds are near collapse, because Syrian Kurds in Kobane are still under siege by IS as Turkish tanks look on passively (see article). Friendship with America has soured because of Turkey’s refusal to let coalition war planes use the Incirlik airbase to bomb IS. Now a spat with Denmark over a Danish jihadist is testing relations with the European Union.

Basil Hassan, a Dane of Lebanese extraction, is accused of attempting to murder Lars Hedegaard, a writer with anti-Islamic views, in Copenhagen. He was caught on April 16th by Turkish police at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport after a tip-off. The row erupted when it emerged that Mr Hassan had been freed by the Turks despite Danish demands for his extradition.

Some speculate that Mr Hassan was part of a hostage swap for the 46 Turks kidnapped by IS from the Turkish consulate in the Iraqi city of Mosul in June and released on September 20th. Others claim that Mr Hassan vanished before the deal. Turkey’s justice ministry refuses to comment. It is not clear if three IS fighters arrested over the murders of a policeman, a soldier and a member of the public in southern Turkey in March remain in custody.

Denmark’s prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, insists Turkey must face repercussions for its behaviour, though “taking the issue to the EU now would be out of place.” But a Social Democratic rival, Mette Gjerskov, says EU membership talks must be frozen and Danish troops in Turkey on a NATO mission be pulled out. The EU has also condemned the recent intrusion of Turkish ships into Cyprus’s territorial waters. “I see a genuine concern across the political spectrum as to where Turkey stands,” warns Marietje Schaake, a Dutch member of the European Parliament.

Turkey’s hopes of joining the EU were already dented after the government’s response to last year’s Gezi park protests left at least nine dead. Worries over efforts to quash corruption probes against the president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and his inner circle, to muzzle the press, to censor the internet and to stack the judiciary were all aired in the EU’s recent annual progress report on Turkey’s accession talks. Yet the government is proposing new laws granting the police sweeping powers, including the right to detain suspects for 24 hours without seeking prosecutors’ consent.

David Cohen, an American treasury official, dropped another bombshell by announcing that IS earns as much as $1m a day from illicit oil sales involving “Turkish middlemen”. Turkish officials retort that Turkey sees IS as a threat to its own security and that since the start of this year, 60m litres of contraband fuel have been seized and 65 kilometres (40 miles) of illegal pipelines ripped out. Yet until Turkey “unequivocally joins the coalition against IS,” warns Marc Pierini, a former EU ambassador to Ankara, doubts over its place in Europe and the West “will only grow.”

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