Turkey's stance on Hamas strains relations with EU
Tensions between Turkey and the European Union have escalated following Turkey's response to the recent outbreak of violence in the Middle East. The aftermath of a violent October 7 raid by Hamas fighters on Israel and the subsequent Israeli bombardment of Gaza has brought Turkey's role in the conflict to the forefront, particularly as it relates to its strained relations with the EU.
In the initial stages, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sought to position Turkey as a mediator in the Israel-Palestine conflict. However, his subsequent open support for Hamas and characterizations of the group as "liberators" or "mujahideen" have marked a departure from EU foreign policy. This divergence has raised concerns over Turkey's candidacy for EU membership, which has been pending since 2005, reports the France 24.
EU officials have expressed disappointment with Ankara's stance, which contrasts sharply with the EU's classification of Hamas as a terrorist organization. A report on candidate countries by the EU underscored the decline in Turkey's alignment with the bloc's foreign and security policy, now at a mere 10 percent.
The situation was exacerbated by Erdogan's vehement condemnation of Israel's actions in Gaza and his accusations of war crimes, which led to the recall of Turkey's ambassador from Tel Aviv. His pro-Hamas rhetoric was on full display at a rally in Istanbul just ahead of Turkey's Republic Day celebrations.
Analysts, including Hamish Kinnear of Verisk Maplecroft, have voiced concerns that Erdogan's position could undermine his recent diplomatic overtures towards the West. The EU's waning enthusiasm for Turkey's membership is partly due to a growing perception of Turkey moving away from Western values, along with a lack of commitment to implementing necessary reforms.
Before Erdogan's controversial statements, there was a sense of optimism within the EU regarding Turkey's potential to serve as a regional mediator, particularly in light of its assistance with Ukrainian grain exports during the Russian blockade. However, the latest developments have complicated the EU's willingness to engage with Turkey.
European Parliament rapporteur for Turkey, Nacho Sanchez Amor, highlighted the potential repercussions of Erdogan's pro-Hamas stance, suggesting it could lead to the legitimization of other groups like the PKK.
Turkey's foreign ministry retaliated to the EU's disapproval by interpreting the criticism as a compliment and accusing the EU of failing to apply universal values consistently, especially in the Middle East.
As the situation in Gaza continues to unfold, the impact on Turkey-EU relations remains a closely monitored aspect of the broader geopolitical landscape.