Admiral’s crackdown ‘could mark the end of Erdogan’s Eurasian turn’: experts

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ANKARA: Turkey’s latest wave of arrests of former admirals who signed a critical overnight statement has sparked debate over whether the crackdown is the result of the country’s “Eurasian turn”.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday accused 104 former naval commanders of attempting to stage a “political coup” through an open letter criticizing the government’s new 45-kilometer man-made waterway , called Kanal Istanbul, and its immediate impact on Montreux in 1936. Convention regulating the traffic of warships in the Istanbul Strait.

Among the signatories, the most notable was Cem Gurdeniz, the mastermind of Turkey’s controversial maximalist maritime doctrine known as Blue Homeland.

Gurdeniz, who has been in police custody since Monday, is a well-known member of the leading Eurasian faction within the Turkish military. The group advocates an anti-Western strategy and stronger relations with Russia and China.

Dr Berk Esen, a political scientist from Sabanci University in Istanbul, said the admirals’ declaration came at a critical time when the Erdogan administration is recalibrating its position on the international stage.

“In recent years, the Turkish government has sought closer ties with authoritarian regimes like Russia and Qatar to gain support for its revisionist measures in the wider region,” he told Arab News.

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Responding to Western criticism of Turkey’s anti-democratic policy, Esen said some Turkish government officials have garnered support from retired officers and analysts belonging to the Eurasian faction.

For several years, the Eurasian movement has pushed Turkish leaders towards rapprochement with Russia and China. Rumors have it that the faction has gained considerable influence in government, allowing it to shape the direction of Turkey’s foreign and security policies.

The predominant ideology of Eurasians, originally from the Turkish far left, is based on an anti-Western foreign policy coupled with ultra-nationalism in the domestic sphere.

They plead for the exit of NATO and the abandonment of the EU candidacy process in favor of membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

According to Esen, the Turkish government’s anti-Western policy may soon come to an end, judging by reports of a deal between Turkey and the EU.

“To reinforce this tendency, Erdogan is seeking to curry favor with the Biden administration by supporting the recent US offensive against Russia. The admirals’ declaration came against the backdrop of this changing geopolitical situation, ”he said.

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The latest Russian troop movements in areas bordering eastern Ukraine angered the Biden administration, leading the US State Department to demand that Moscow explain the reported “provocations”.

However, Russia sees the Kanal Istanbul project as a threat because it would give NATO members free access to the Black Sea and the Crimean Peninsula, including the strategic port of Sevastopol, which Moscow annexed in 2014.

Therefore, the group of admirals feared that the new canal could anger Russia, as Turkey could break with the Montreux Convention which governs the transit of warships in times of peace and war.

The length of stay and the tonnage of warships of naval forces not belonging to the Black Sea are limited by the convention. They cannot stay in the area for more than 21 days, when the maximum weight of the vessels is 45,000 tonnes.

However, in a televised speech on Monday, Erdogan said the government was not considering withdrawing from the convention, adding: “But if the need arises in the future, we could revise each convention to help our country to. improve. “

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According to Esen, while not all signatories to the letter subscribe to the Blue Homeland Doctrine, the admirals are likely concerned that Erdogan is using the Montreux Convention as a bargaining chip with the United States, which has tried for decades to undermine the agreement in order to access the Black Sea.

“After seeking an unspoken alliance with the Eurasians for the past two years, Erdogan may have obtained a convenient excuse to eliminate retired officers affiliated with the Blue Homeland Doctrine as he considers strengthening ties with the United States.” , said Berk.

Meanwhile, the Chinese Embassy in Ankara has condemned capital mayor Mansur Yavas and Good Party leader Meral Aksener for writing messages commemorating the massacre of Uyghurs by the Chinese military in 1990.

“China reserves the right to respond proportionately,” the embassy tweeted, adding, “The Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region is an integral part of Chinese territory. It is an internationally accepted and indisputable fact. “

The Turkish opposition has long criticized the government for remaining silent about China’s oppression of Uyghur Muslims.

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