The EU and Turkey have, for a long time, been caught in a strange courtship; the EU has for years wanted Turkey to be part of its ranks, Turkey has for years been slightly coy or unwilling to fully commit. On some levels, this is a story of a dysfunctional love affair in which Turkey is playing the character who is unable and unwilling to enter into a serious relationship. Commitment issues aside, the EU and Turkey have always continued down this route, and periodically we will hear or see moves to make EU’s membership into the EU a reality. The latest move was that of the EU to accept Turkey into its 70 Billion Euro Horizon 2020 program, without preconditions and without negotiations.
There are, in truth, a lot of positives to the idea of having Turkey closer to the EU; positives for the EU and for Israel. There should, in an ideal world, be a strategic alliance between the Turks, Israelis and Europeans based on geo-strategic understandings, shared threats regarding Iraq and Iran, and a potential upcoming collective battle against ISIS. So yes, there is a whole list of reasons why we should seek a better relationship; but we should not do it any cost.
The Middle East is currently being thrown back into conflict; Israel has entered Gaza in a ground incursion, and the violence and death toll for both sides doesn’t look likely to end imminently. However, something was missed during this growing battle of violence and rhetoric, something important.
On 9am of Tuesday 15th July Israel formally agreed to a ceasefire enabled by the Egyptian leadership. Hamas refused this very same ceasefire, firing 50 rockets into Israel whilst Israel paused its attacks. The world had held its breath for a few hours, hoping that somehow the peace and calm would be restored and that some sense of normality would be found again. Sadly this didn’t happen and we are currently sitting where we are today, watching the conflict escalate.
A lot has been written on the Hamas refusal to accept the ceasefire, something that is important and key to this. But what should also be looked at is the reasons behind this refusal, and the key states behind this refusal.
Immediately following the breakdown of the ceasefire, Egypt, often touted as the greatest leader of the Arab states, came out and said that ‘Qatar, Turkey and Hamas’ had hurt the Gaza ceasefire. Qatar and Hamas, we know what to expect, we’ve seen what they can do and we understand their game. Turkey came as a surprise.
The same Turkey that is being courted and flirted with by the EU helped stop a ceasefire in Gaza. Turkey who is admitted into Horizon 2020, who has a strong and growing relationship with the EU bears responsibility for Hamas continuing fighting when peace could have been achieved. Turkey who for decades has been considered a strong candidate for EU membership has worked against Egypt, the US and Israel to ensure that Hamas have the ability and political cover to continue fighting.
This reality has to be seriously considered; are Turkey serious about working with the EU and other serious players to secure peace in the region? They have a choice to make it seems, choose peace or choose violence, implementing each choice is complicated, making the choice is simple.
The EU also has a choice. Choose to stand on your principles. If Turkey truly has played a part in stopping a ceasefire, then this is unacceptable and should be said clearly and unambiguously.
The world is made of fragile strategic alliances, shifting winds and breaking bonds; The EU can make a difference but it must make a choice. Without doing so it risks drifting continuously and blindly to a point where peace and security are just words it just pays lip service to.