This year has been a tough one for the Middle East and a particularly testing time for Turkey. Just a few years ago, the country’s economy was one of the leading emerging markets on the planet and a policy of “no problems with neighbours” translated into foreign policy dividends.
But the war in Syria and Iraq coupled with a bloody campaign against Kurdish militants at home and a coup attempt has left Turkey bruised and battered in 2016. Over the past two weeks, the country has been assaulted by bomb attacks outside a crowded football stadium in Istanbul and on a public bus carrying Turkish troops in the town of Kayseri.
As this horrific year of violence comes to a close, it is time for Turkey to reassess its regional and international alliances and rekindle its diplomatic friendships. Due to tensions over the refugee crisis, Ankara has watched its relationship with the European Union turn sour this year.
Whenever European politicians attempt to discuss the internal challenges facing Turkey, such as the growth of the Gulenist movement or the bloody war fought against the PKK, the Kurdish extremist organisation, Ankara has been quick to threaten to open its borders and release refugees into Europe. The post-coup crackdown this summer did little to warm the relationship with Brussels.
As a vital ally on the front lines of Iraq and Syria this manner of brinkmanship demands reform. The refugee crisis shouldn’t be a bargaining chip that is employed to silence constructive criticism. It is a global challenge that requires compromise and cooperation to solve.
Europe and other Nato countries such as the United States have a clear interest in assisting Turkey with its domestic challenges and ensuring that the country is secure and prosperous. Instead of watching the country suffer with the weight of extremism and its effects on the economy, allies must listen closely to the Turkish leadership to forge a path out of the mess.
As we have seen in the last two weeks of terror, Turkey is on the front lines of the conflicts that are defining the region. In its time of need, friends and allies can’t afford to turn their backs just as Turkey can’t afford to forge a solution on its own. Hopefully, 2017 will bring with it a renewed spirit of camaraderie, cooperation and motivation to solve problems.