FT: Western diplomats fear Erdogan's extended presidency will fuel hostility
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's continuation as president for another term means the worrisome relationship between the West and Ankara will persist, and Western diplomats' feelings towards Erdogan bordered on hatred, while they found his opponent Kemal Kilicdaroglu sincere and sympathetic, British newspaper Financial Times said on Wednesday.
In an article titled "West braced for five more years of ‘unreliable’ Erdogan at helm in Turkey,” signed by FT correspondents Laura Pitel in Jeddah, Felicia Schwartz in Washington, and Max Seddon in Riga, the newspaper said officials in the US and Europe are bracing themselves for a bumpy road with Erdogan, whom they perceive as troublesome and unpredictable.
Eric Edelman, a former US ambassador to Turkey, told FT that another term for the veteran leader would lead to a continuation of the west’s fraught relationship with Ankara. “We’re going to have a very unreliable ally, whose policies are going to be driven by the political needs and whims of one man,” Edelman said.
“There’s huge goodwill towards Kılıçdaroğlu [among western officials],” he said. “They like him.” By contrast, he added, their feelings towards Erdoğan were “bordering on hate”.
The article highlighted Erdogan's track record over the past five years, including the imprisonment of an American pastor, the purchase of the S-400 missile defense system, threats to deport Western ambassadors, and causing crises in international relations by creating a refugee crisis at the EU border.
Ilke Toygur, a professor of European geopolitics at Carlos III University in Madrid, warned that relations could deteriorate from their already low base if western countries abandoned the restraint they showed over the past year or so. “They were holding back because they didn’t want to become campaign material for President Erdogan,” she said. “But if he wins the second round there’s no reason to hold back.”
Alper Coskun, a former Turkish diplomat now based in Washington, said he worried about the longer-term implications of deepening strain with the west when the Turkish public was already profoundly mistrustful of both the US and Europe.
“European integration is progressing but with no mention of Turkey,” said Coskun. “Another five years and that alienation will become deeper.”
He added: “That will have an impact on Turkish society’s outlook on the world and the extent that countries such as Russia and China can nurture that [anti-western] psyche in Turkey.”