turkey ship

There are conflict zones or rather war-zones fast developing in the world right now. India is facing Pakistan in Kashmir, China in Ladakh and China is facing US, Japan, Australia, Indonesia and Taiwan in its South China sea, Middle-East is on the boil since a long time, precisely after Iraq was torn to pieces, thereafter Syria became the target where Iran and Russia supported Bashshar Assad regime-while US and Israel want it finished. Israel is locked in dispute with Hezbollah in Lebanon, Palestinians in West Bank & Gaza, in Syria with Assad and with Iran over its influence.  Lot many fast developments are taking place. UAE has decided to open up Israel embassy in Dubai on August 14, 2020, just after ten days when Lebanon blasts had occurred leaving hundreds dead, more than 3,00,000 homeless and property worth billions of USD reduced to ashes. Turkey, which is now home to millions of refugees , in the wake of  years of Syrian conflict, has announced to snap ties with UAE. It is expected that very soon all the Gulf-states will throw a red-carpet to Israel, even if Donald Trump wins the November 2020 elections or not, and there might be an all out war on Iran, with US, Israel, UAE and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) as joint-partners. Libya is in ruins. Yemen is devastated and more and more nations seem to take head-on with each other, the latest is Turkey and Greece with an aid from an unexpected quarter: Israel.

Turkey President Tayyip Erdogan has hogged the limelight lately when he on July 11, 2020 1 , citing sovereignty, converted Hagia Sophia, a museum back into a mosque, after  Turkish SC ordered for it, and in its way invited both bouquets and brickbats from all over the world. ‘US disappointed by Turkey’ cried the headline of Khaleej Times 2, UNESCO expressed its deep regret over Turkey decision to change status of  historic Hagia Sophia 3 said the News.un.org,  and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia which is involved with Turkey over the leadership of the Arab and Muslim world, decided to  force businesses not to trade with Turkey in effort to boost boycott, which came after Hagia Sophia episode. ‘Saudi Arabia has been putting pressure on local businesses not to trade with Turkey and its industries in a bid to boost its unofficial boycott. The detention of trucks carrying produce from Turkey has raised tension between the two countries. Saudi Arabia has been preventing trucks carrying fresh fruit and vegetables from crossing the Saudi border. You (one) cannot even sell Turkish goods from Germany because they ( Saudis) don’t want anything with a ‘Made in Turkey’ stamp’4 . This is how the Gulf-nations strangulated Turkey while the voices to make ‘Temple-Mount’ 5  at the place of Al Aqsa mosque in East Jerusalem is gaining momentum with every passing day.

Turkey, is now to be under the scanner, as it has long back thrown-off the ‘sick-man-of-Europe tag and no more fancies for a place inside NATO. It has, after the event of Hagia-Sophia, which was opposed more by Muslim countries than Christian or Western states, given a fresh opportunity to be circumvented and curtailed, so that it can never dream of becoming the ‘once-super-power’ that it was . Turkey, has started to scout for oil and gas in the East Mediterranean sea on August 10, 2020 and has warranted a sharp response from Greece, which has prompted Ankara to warn Greece of retaliation in case its survey vessel is attacked.  While speaking in Istanbul on August 14, 2020, Erdogan said that that ‘one of the warships accompanying the exploratory Oruc Reis vessel, the Kemal Reis, had “given the necessary response” to an attack ( by Greece)”If this continues, they will receive their answer in kind,” he said, without specifying which nation’s ships had allegedly attacked Turkey’s. “We can’t let even the smallest attack go without an answer.” Turkey and Greece are vehemently at odds over overlapping claims for hydrocarbon resources in the increasingly volatile region. Greece had responded by dispatching its own military assets, resulting in a mild collision of Greek and Turkish warships which the Greek defence sources said it was an accident but Turkey called it a provocation. Turkey’s warning to Greece came as the European Union’s foreign ministers are meeting on Friday to address the emerging crisis, which has pitted Ankara against its uneasy NATO ally and the entire EU bloc’ 6  .

France, in the wake of the emerging situation, has ‘temporarily-reinforced’ its military presence in the region, which has evoked Ankara to call France a ‘bully’ the same way it acted in Libya, north-east of Syria, Iraq or in Mediterranean and that France ‘will not get anywhere by acting like it’ German Chancellor Angela Merkel has entered the scenario calling for de-escalation of the situation. Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis on August 13, 2020 issued a warning to Turkey and called for its allies which prompted action from France 7.  Turkey  had ‘put-off’ the exploration by last month following a truce brokered by Germany which it now tends to restart.  France has started flexing its muscles more in the region as its president Emanuel Macron was the first to visit after the Beirut blasts. Lebanon had been a French colony until 1955.

Israel  is at loggerhead with Turkey on many foreign-affairs issues, lately on the point of Al Aqsa mosque which was likened to Hagia Sophia by Erdogan and which ought to be liberated, on July 11, 2020 8.  Erdogan had also recently on May 26, 2020, said that Turkey won’t allow Israel to annex-parts of West Bank and that Jerusalem is a red-line for Muslims the world over,  “The world order has let down the Palestinians, and has not successfully brought peace, justice, security and order to this part of the world.”Erdogan added that Jerusalem and the Temple Mount are “holy to three religions and are the red line for all Muslims in the world. 9

The impasse between Turkey-Greece gave a perfect chance to Israel to dash into the East-Mediterranean waters by the side of Greece.  Israel clearly came  forward to voice its support for Greece. Its foreign ministry released a   ‘ rare declarative statement that “Israel follows closely as tension arises in the Eastern Mediterranean. “Israel expresses its full support and solidarity with Greece in its maritime zones and its right to delimit its EEZ [exclusive economic zone],” Soon after the statement was released, Israel’s Ambassador to Greece Yossi Amrani met with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, who later announced he would come to Israel to meet  Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi. The situation in the eastern Mediterranean will be at the top of the agenda  10.   Israel has surprisingly remained silent on border disputes within Turkey-Greece but the response emanating from Tel Aviv right now speaks of the timings involved.

As Greece seem to be gaining ground Turkey is found to slide as its currency lira is on a historic low. The Economist in its report on August 15, 2020 11 has given an elaborate report  as Turkish currency is going to a downward spiral, and ‘ despite its state bank efforts to bolster Turkey’s currency, the lira fell to its lowest point since May against the dollar this week ( July 30, 2020) , prompting fears of a renewed currency crisis 12 .

It is under such duress Turkey is aligning with Pakistan to forge an alliance to challenge the leadership of KSA and UAE outside Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC). KSA has stopped  to give oil to Pakistan on deferred loan and  Pakistan army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa is on a trip to KSA which is said for a ‘partnership too important to fail’ 13 and many eyes are on its outcome.  India is also watching the precarious developments in Middle-East with utmost keenness as all its adversaries Pakistan, Turkey, Iran are in bad waters, with the exception of China.

The writer is a former UP State Information Commissioner. He is also a lawyer based in Lucknow.

 

References:

1-https://www.economist.com/europe/2020/07/11/turkeys-president-is-playing-religious-politics

2-https://www.khaleejtimes.com/world/americas/us-disappointed-by-turkey-mosque-move-on-hagia-sophia

3-https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/07/1068151

4-https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20200724-saudi-arabia-forces-businesses-not-to-trade-with-turkey-in-effort-to-boost-boycott/

5-https://countercurrents.org/2020/07/hagia-sophia-babri-masjid-and-temple-mount/

6-https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/08/mediterranean-crisis-turkey-warns-greece-slams-bully-france-200814140628522.html

7-https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/08/mediterranean-crisis-turkey-warns-greece-slams-bully-france-200814140628522.html

8- https://www.jpost.com/middle-east/turkey-vows-to-liberate-al-aqsa-after-turning-hagia-sophia-to-mosque-634700

9- https://www.timesofisrael.com/erdogan-says-turkey-wont-allow-israel-to-annex-parts-of-west-bank/

10- https://www.jpost.com/middle-east/israel-takes-greeces-side-in-maritime-standoff-with-turkey-638344

11- https://www.economist.com/finance-and-economics/2020/08/15/as-the-lira-slides-what-will-turkeys-central-bank-do

12- https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2020/07/turkey-lira-drops-central-bank-inflation-forecast.html

13- Saudi Arabia and Pakistan: A partnership too important to fail


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