Out of a sudden, the vitriolic rhetoric against Israel and Egypt by Turkey’s senior officials and advisors has recently been replaced by conciliatory overtures. But what impelled President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to offer an olive branch to the two nations that he decried as outright enemies?
In a nutshell, the withering number of Turkey’s friends on the regional and world stage.
Owing to Turkey’s constant interventions in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East (from the Libyan Civil War to the Qatari Crisis), the affected countries decided to coalesce in an effort to counter this aggressiveness.
These efforts came to fore in the Philia Forum and the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum – much to the chagrin of an increasingly isolated Turkey.
And how does Turkey seek to remedy this? Through a charm offensive directed primarily towards these actors: Israel, Egypt, EU, Saudi Arabia and US.
And what does Turkey aspire to achieve? In brief, three inter-related objectives:
a) Try and dislodge the coalition and impede the deepening co-operation in the domains of security and energy amongst its member-states
b) Woo the increasingly “cold” Biden Administration through a reconciliation process with traditional US partners in the region (Egypt, Israel and Saudi Arabia).
c) Preserve the fragile détente with the EU and avoid any economic sanctions
Turkey’s senior officials optimistically asserted that the traumatised relationships with these countries could be and would be normalised within “weeks” or “months”.
Ankara's normalisation narrative
However, reality suggests otherwise. The aforementioned countries did not succumb to Turkey’s persistent courting. Why? In one word: mistrust – a deep mistrust towards an increasingly interventionist Erdogan. Actually, the above states recently adopted policies which counter the “normalisation narrative” by Ankara.
The US imposed sanctions on Ankara with regards to the S-400 conundrum and even disparaged the violations of civil rights inside Turkey. President Biden even went as far as to recognise the Armenian Genocide on April 24.
Israel recently inked a defence agreement with Greece and currently participates in the Iniochos 2021 Exercise in Greece. Likewise, Saudi Arabia recently signed an agreement on security cooperation with Greece and recently conducted joint military drills with Greece.
Last but not least, Cairo issued an long list of demands to Turkey – from the withdrawal of Turkish military forces from Western Libya to the non-interference in the internal affairs of Egypt. Even the EU, which appeased Turkey for long, was forced to reconsider its policy towards Ankara after the SofaGate Scandal.
In other words, Turkey’s charm offensive has not yielded the desired results yet. And under the current circumstances, Turkey could (at best) aim for a de-escalation in multiple crises with the aforementioned actors – not full normalisation.
Dr Spyridon Plakoudas is an Assistant Professor of Homeland Security at Rabdan Academy, Abu Dhabi