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DW: Turkey is shooting itself in the foot

Turkey has badly hurt its international ties by threatening Germany and other partner nations over their assessment of the Ottoman massacre of Armenians a century ago, Deutsche Welle‘s Thomas Seibert says from Istanbul.

Turkey has rarely launched rhetorical attacks on so many different international players in such a short time. The pope came in for his share, as did the European Parliament.

Then it was Austria’s turn, before Germany, France, Russia and the USA were also all verbally assaulted – in a series of foreign office statements issued at the rate of almost one a minute – for the positions they have taken in the debate on the correct word to give to the massacre of Armenians by Ottoman authorities one hundred years ago.

‘The Turkish people will not forgive and forget’

In the case of Germany, Ankara stressed that the Turkish people would neither forgive nor forget the words of President Joachim Gauck, who has spoken of an Armenian genocide. At the same time, the Turkish government warned the German parliament in Berlin against passing a planned resolution that also speaks of a genocide against the Armenians from 1915 to 1917.

The presidents of the USA, Russia and France – Barack Obama, Vladimir Putin and Francois Hollande – drew Ankara’s ire because they also mentioned the massacre. And Obama didn’t even use the “G-word” out of consideration for his country’s important NATO ally.

Questionable consequences

Within just a few hours, Ankara thus verbally attacked three of the five Permanent Members of the UN Security Council and, in the case of Germany, also its most important trading partner. With only a few weeks to go to the Turkish parliamentary elections on June 7, this probably appeals to right-leaning voters – one possible motivation behind the wave of blustering statements.

But Turkey will have to realize that such exaggerated accesses of rage do more harm than good in the sphere of foreign affairs.

For a start, there is barely a single government politician in the targeted countries who takes the tirades from Ankara seriously: many are the occasions when Turkey has announced political and economic reprisals against partner nations in great indignation, only to get back to business as usual without losing another word on the matter.

International isolation

Then there is the fact that the furious Turkish outbursts reinforce doubts about how reliable this partner to the West actually is. To a point, it is understandable, in view of the country’s domestic political situation and the decades spent denying the crime, that the Turkish government rejects the application of the term “genocide” to the massacre of Armenians. But the way Ankara has almost broken up its friendship with important allies in a spectacular gesture just because they did not agree with the Turkish view of things could cause some politicians and officials in the West to think again.

For some time, Turkey has been taking pleasure in presenting itself as a regional power whose irresistible rise is being hindered by foreign ones, because Europe and the USA fear a new rival. This strange view of the world is part of the reason for the heated debate on the Armenian issue, and was frequently promulgated in the past few days in particular by the government-friendly press in Ankara and some advisers to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. It may be that Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party can score with nationalistic voters in the Turkish election campaign by this means. But internationally, it is a course that will lead to isolation.

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