Prime Minister Erdoğan in his second home

Kerim BALCI
Kerim BALCI


Date posted: January 29, 2014

KERİM BALCI

The prime minister was in Tehran yesterday. He met with Iranian First Deputy President Ishaq Jahangir, and while expressing his gratitude for the Iranian hospitality, he reportedly said that he feels that he is in his second home. Well, literally, he said, “We feel in our second home,” but I assume this “we” is the we-of-magnificence characteristically used by kings and sultans. I don’t think the rest of his team feels the same way in Tehran.

Diplomacy has its own rules. The level of expressions used during a visit should overlap with the status of addressees. If he used this expression while speaking to Jahangir, I wonder what kind of compliments he made in front of President Hassan Rohani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei?

The prime minister’s trip was largely an economic one. In his departing statement, Erdoğan had expressed his hope to sign a High-level Cooperation Agreement to establish a High-level Cooperation Council between Turkey and Iran. Apparently, the Iranian side had reservations about this and the signing of the deal was delayed until Rohani’s visit to Ankara. This delay may certainly mean a cancellation, of course.

The sides also failed to agree on the acquisition of cheaper natural gas from Iran. A mistranslation about a signed agreement was corrected by Energy Minister Taner Yıldız. Yıldız stated that what had been accomplished was just a verbal exchange of good faith about Turkey’s demands.

Apparently, in order not to provoke the wrath of Iranian leaders, Erdoğan did not mention the differences between Turkey and Iran when it comes to the two countries’ policies on Syria. Given the fact that Ankara kept pushing for a “No-to-Bashar-al-Assad!” policy in Geneva last week, one would expect the two sides to agree not to agree on Syria. But this would put a damper on the visit.

Erdoğan did not want the visit to be perceived as a complete failure. He presented the signing of the Preferential Trading Agreement (PTA) during the trip as a real success. Interestingly, this agreement was not thought to be of enough importance to mention during his departure speech. An even more distressing fact is that Turkey and Iran had already signed a PTA within the framework of the D-8 Organization for Economic Cooperation in Indonesia, in 2006. The agreement was approved by the Turkish government in 2011 and Ankara will be hosting the Third Supervisory Committee of this PTA in March. In short, something that had already been established years ago is being presented to the public as a new success story.

The Turkish government’s naïve trust in the Iranian authorities and determined failure to see the dangers of Iranian cultural and ideological expansionism have always been an issue the political Islamists and apolitical faith-based movements of Turkey could not agree on. The political Islamists, represented by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) today, regard the US and Israel as the prime enemies of Turkey and regard the so-called Islamic revolution of Iran as a kind of role model all religiously motivated political groups have to respect, despite its failures. On the other hand, apolitical faith-based movements, represented by the Sufi lodges and the Hizmet movement today, regard Iranian expansionism as a real and imminent threat that needs to be tackled.

I belong to the second group and believe that the penetration of Iranian influence into Turkish politics is far beyond what people fear. The Turkish prime minister may (and let him do so) feel like he is in his second home in Tehran, but many Iranian leaders regard Turkey as their 32nd province-to-be.

This does not mean that I feel threatened by an increase in Turkish-Iranian trade. But frankly speaking, I am furious about the fact that Turkey buys the most expensive oil and gas from Iran, the fact that our mutual trade agreements are always formulated at the expense of Turkish interests and the fact that Iran never repays Turkey’s sacrifices in the international political arena for supporting Iranian positions.

I have no home country other than Turkey.

Source: Todays Zaman , January 29, 2014


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