Suddenly the EU is back at the table with Turkey

The Tyrant of Turkey has had a big month on the international diplomacy front. First President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was invited to the White House for a meeting with President Trump and then he was prominently featured in a summit of NATO leaders this past week. It’s an almost surreal image to digest, with world leaders chatting away with him on various important topics while virtually zero mention was made of the outrageous civil rights atrocities taking place back in his home country. One of the results coming out of the summit was, at least according to Erdogan, a new timetable for the European Union to continue talks with his government over possible membership for Turkey. (Reuters)

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said the European Union had presented Turkey with a new 12-month timetable for renewing their relations, the Hurriyet daily said on Saturday.

Speaking to reporters on the return flight from this week’s NATO summit in Brussels, Erdogan was cited by Hurriyet as saying that during the summit, Turkey and the EU had agreed on giving a new impetus to relations and added Turkey’s foreign and EU affairs ministries would work towards the timetable.

Turkey’s relations with the European Union, particularly Germany, have deteriorated sharply after a series of diplomatic rows.

Erdogan was quoted as saying he had put the issue of the visa liberalization on the agenda during meetings with EU officials, and that Turkish and EU officials would work together on the issue.

Erdogan has more cards to play than most of the countries he’s negotiating with and the rest of the NATO representatives clearly know it. The EU made a bargain with him some time ago in which Erdogan agreed to largely shut off the flood of refugees and migrants streaming into Europe from Syria and Iraq. In exchange, Erdogan was assured of visa-free travel for Turks heading to Europe and a payment of roughly 3 billion euros in good will money. At this stage of the game he’s able to hold that over their collective heads, despite the horror show taking place in Turkey in the wake of last summer’s failed coup.

The other big chip that Erdogan has on his side of the table is Incirlik air base. The Germans have troops stationed there and it’s their only significant base of operations in the region. Turkey relies on some of those German resources and has threatened to retaliate against the EU members if Germany decides to pull their troops and hardware out of there.

Incirlik is also critical to the United States in the war on ISIS. As the Military Times reported, just this month one of the largest remaining newspapers in Turkey (which has managed to not be shut down by Erdogan) was calling for America to be booted out of there as well.

A prominent Turkish newspaper has demanded the eviction of U.S. troops and warplanes from Incirlik Air Base as fallout there worsens from the Trump administration’s controversial move to arm a Kurdish militia fighting the Islamic State in neighboring Syria.

In a front-page editorial published Friday, the newspaper Sozcu called for Incirlik’s complete closure. It’s an unlikely outcome, military officials and observers say, but a clear sign of how dramatically relations have deteriorated between the NATO allies.

Western nations have continued to legitimize Erdogan’s regime even as democracy there is failing. Their president knows that he’s in a very powerful position with a lot of leverage so he can pretty much do as he pleases. And even as he constructs his list of demands and dances with the west, he’s continuing to take meetings with Vladimir Putin and hold friendly talks with Iran and North Korea. This guy really seems to have all the stars aligned in his favor currently and he’s smart enough to take advantage of it. Thus far there doesn’t seem to be a thing anyone else can do about it, either. And for those of you keeping score, the Turkey Purge website records that more than 51,000 people have been arrested since the coup attempt and an unknown number are simply missing and presumed dead at the hands of their government.

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