From the sofa to a seat at the table

In the EU's immediate neighbourhood, many fires are blazing.  Yet instead of confronting open warfare, state terrorism and dictators on the basis of a jointly determined policy, the EU and many member states delegate the responsibility for dealing with the consequences of latent conflict situations to despots, especially Turkey. 

In the process, the fact that the autocratic Islamist regime under Turkish President Erdogan is trying to use the foreign policy vacuum created by the EU to increase its chances of coming closer to a new edition of neo-Ottoman great power ideologies has so far been studiously overlooked. 

In the shadow of the new West-East conflict, the Erdogan regime is contributing significantly to a dangerous destabilisation in the Middle East, the Caucasus and other theatres of war in Europe and thus on the entire continent with its openly military-aggressive intervention policy. 

Recently, HAMAS was able to fire over 1000 rockets at Israel in one night. Erdogan called Israel a "terrorist state" because of the resulting resistance. Recent political rapprochements between Ankara and Tel Aviv have thus once again proved to be an illusion. This is entirely in line with the stretegy of HAMAS, as part of the Muslim Brotherhood, which this Turkish government repeatedly instrumentalises for its own interests.

Turkey's role in the Caucasus is also extremely dangerous. Turkey's recent war of aggression alongside Azerbaijan against Armenia was perceived in most EU countries as a skirmish over the inhospitable mountainous region of Nagorno-Karabakh - a conflict which has also been pushed into the background by the Corona crisis.

The fact that the Erdogan regime also used IS and Alqaida terrorists from Syria against Armenia was hardly discussed. In the end, the dictatorial regimes in Ankara and Baku failed to achieve their main military goal of conquering the entire Nagorno-Karabakh region in a coup d'état.

One result of the latest war, however, remains extraordinarily significant: Turkey's first land connection to Baku via the Azerbaijani enclave of Nakhichevan. Armenia fears, for understandable reasons, that this war will promote efforts by neo-Ottomanists to unite a large region stretching across the former Turkic Soviet republics to the borders of China.

There would be no room for Christian Armenia. Instead, the trauma of another genocide would be awakened.

It is true that Russia also benefited strategically from the results of the recent war over Nagorno-Karabakh by stationing "peacekeeping troops" in the mountain region.

But in the longer term, the conflict between Russia and NATO member Turkey also threatens to intensify in this region with all possible consequences - this also applies to Turkey's military intervention in Syria.

There is much to suggest that one reason for the recent unacceptable build-up of Russian troops on the borders with Ukraine was the supply of Turkish drone technologies. These were used so successfully in the Nagorno-Karabakh war and fuelled considerations of a military solution to Russian aggression in the Donbass.

The unwillingness of the EU and its key member states to develop and credibly implement an active, robust, peacekeeping and democracy-promoting foreign policy led to a dangerous confrontation between NATO members Greece and Turkey even in the Western Mediterranean.

The new US administration also currently sees Turkey as the central partner for defending free access to the Black Sea against the Russian Federation. In the long run, this policy could also prove to be dangerous - as the planned Turkish canal construction parallel to the Dardanelles shows, which would not be covered by the 1936 Treaty of Montreux.

An active and effective foreign policy of the EU and its member states must therefore not continue to delegate the answer to these central security policy questions - which affect the entire continent - but must emphatically move from the sofa to the negotiating table.

The following cornerstones of a new EU foreign policy could prove to be quite effective in de-escalating current conflict situations in Europe and at the same time remove the ground from the dangerous great power aspirations of NATO partner Turkey and promote its return to the EU:

1) Western security guarantees for Armenia vis-à-vis the dictatorship in Azerbaijan and the Erdogan regime, taking into account Armenia's special relations with Nagorno-Karabakh and reviewing the flow of money from Azerbaijan to Western Europe,

2) A vigorously pursued European solution to the refugee issue.

3) stringent commitment to a negotiated solution to the Donbass war with reactivation of the Minsk Group and the new US administration,

4) International safeguarding of the treaties for free access to the Black Sea and all seaports of the riparian states with the involvement of the UN,

5) Review of EU support for Palestinian self-administration with simultaneous thematisation of military cooperation between Israel and Azerbaijan.

In order to develop a new security architecture for Europe on this basis, it is necessary to initiate a new CSCE process with the Russian Federation. 

In such a framework, conflicts such as the occupation of Crimea and the state terrorism of the Lugashenko regime in Belarus should be addressed.

Dr. Wolfgang Ressmann
Coordinator "Mediadialogue - Eastern Partnership


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