"Map wars" damage Turkish foreign policy
The ruling block and the nationalist opposition parties in Turkey seem to be united in an expansion discourse and this rhetoric does not help in Turkey’s rightful and partly tolerated demands in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean, said Selim Kuneralp, a retired Turkish diplomat, in an article he wrote for Serbestiyet web site.
MHP (Nationalist Movement Party) leader Devlet Bahceli recently posed for a photo with ultranationalist Gray Wolves holding a map that shows many Aegean Greek islands as Turkish and provoked outrage in Greece and international diplomatic circles. Neither AKP (Justice and Development Party) nor other nationalist opposition parties made any objectionable comments, including the main opposition CHP (Republican People’s Party.)
In 2019, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also posed in front of a similar map.
Kuneralp wrote that he believes one of the many factors that separate Turkey from developed democratic countries seems to be the keenness about territorial expansion, a feeling shared by almost all members of the Turkish nation. “Let me remind you that it took the Ottomans 40 years to conquer Rhodes, 33 years Crete,” he wrote, as he explained the futility of the expansionist ambitions.
Kuneralp said that ‘Blue Homeland’, an irredentist and expansionist concept and doctrine, and maps drawn accordingly created a wave of excitement and Turkish government in consequence made a maritime deal with Libya to establish an exclusive economic zone in the Mediterranean Sea but failed to have that agreement ratified in the Libyan Parliament. Similarly, as a result of EU sanctions, the government had to stop the exploration of natural resources in the Eastern Mediterranean, Kuneralp said.
Kuneralp also drew attention to the maps on TV showing Turkish influence in northern Syria, accompanying the discourse about the military offensive in the region but reminded that the international community was firmly against such an offensive. “It is not difficult to predict that the price will be very high if the government insists on a military offensive,” Kuneralp said.
The retired diplomat said that he was surprised not by the government’s incitement of the nationalist feelings but the lack of objections from the opposition parties, especially the CHP (Republican People’s Party.)