Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Diplomatic Fallout

The response to the Constitutional Court's acceptance of the AKP closure case has been loud in Europe while much quieter in the United States.

The EU is threatening to suspend Turkey's accession process and EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn again pointed to the problem as systemic to Turkey's political system. Under Turkey's 2004 accession agreement with the EU, the EU Enlargment Commission can suspend accession talks should they fnd a "serious and persistent breach in Turkey of the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the rule of law." Rehn said yesterday that he would be briefing the commission today as to the implications of the closure case for EU membership. European politicians did not hesitate to concur with Rehn's concern. EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso and Rehn will be travelling to Turkey on April 10 for a three-day trip during which they plan to discuss the closure case with the government and stress the importance of coming to a democratic solution ahead of AKP's potential closure. The trip had been previosuly scheduled, but no doubt takes on new importance.

Reaction from the United States was more ambivalent. Typical of doing what it in recent years it has done best, the State Department issued a vague, confusing, and ultimately meaningless statement. Discussing the closure case at a press briefing yesterday, deputy spokesperson Tom Casey said,
"We attach great importance to the democratic values and the secular principles
that Turkey is committed to and that's the basis of our relationship and to the
alliance. I know that the court has accepted hearing this case, but we
understand that this is going to be a rather lengthy process and what we would
expect and hope from this process is that those involved would proceed in a way
that was apolitical and that reflected the commitment to representative
democracy that's been expressed by the Turkish voters in recent elections."
Calling on an "apolitical solution" seems completely asinine at this point, as there is no point in denying the inherent political nature of a case that threatens the closure of a political party. The lack of a strong condemnation is no doubt intended to attend to the concerns of the Turkish General Staff. The United States is heavily-reliant on the İncirlik Air Base to carry out its war in Iraq and the United States must understandably be cautious so as to not offend important factions in Turkish politics, namely the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK). However, at the very least, the State Department could attempt to craft a smarter statement and would, in all hopes, lend as much support as possible to the protection of Turkey's democratic project. Precisely what is at conflict right now are the "democratic values" and "the secular principles" to which Casey alludes, and it is a peaceful settlement of this conflict upon which rests any future relationship between a democratic Turkey and the United States.

No comments: