News / Europe

Turkey Flexes Muscles Before NATO Summit

Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan (file photo)Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan (file photo)
x
Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan (file photo)
Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan (file photo)
Dorian Jones
ISTANBUL - A last-minute deal has cleared away a dispute over the attendance of senior European Union officials at the NATO summit opening in Chicago Sunday.  Analysts saw the dispute as an example of Turkey flexing its growing diplomatic muscle within the military alliance.

With only days to go before the NATO summit, the president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, and the head of European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, finally received an official invitation to attend.

The delay was a result of objections by Turkey over what Ankara perceives as a lack of equal treatment between NATO and EU officials.

Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Selcuk Unal explains.

"Many countries have questions and wonder why two EU chiefs are invited, while the NATO secretary-general is not invited," said Unal. "Second, why are other international and regional organizations who also deal with NATO not invited or thought to be invited?"

According to Turkish spokesman Unal, the impasse was resolved after it was agreed that the EU leaders will attend the opening ceremony but will be restricted to only certain sessions of the summit, including those related to Afghanistan.

Turkey's stalled EU membership bid is seen as the underlying factor for Ankara playing diplomatic hardball before the summit, says former senior Turkish diplomat Sinan Ulgen.

"It is an indication of how much frustration, disillusionment and even now antagonism has been built over Turkey's accession process, and this is leading to this type of negative environment, where Turkey is trying to leverage with its own relationship with NATO, to put pressure on the EU. In many ways, we are definitely seeing a much more assertive and robust Turkish foreign policy," said Ulgen.

Political observers say the confidence of Ankara to stand up to the EU comes from Turkey's growing regional importance. Turkey borders Syria, Iran and Iraq. And with its charismatic prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan - whose influence and popularity extends across the Arab Spring countries - Ankara has become an increasingly important ally to the United States.

Cengiz Aktar, an international relations expert at Istanbul's Bahcesehir University, says Washington's support gives Ankara an important strategic advantage.
 
"Turkey has a sort [of] comparative advantage over other countries in the Middle East, the Mediterranean and even Europe," said Aktar. "The government is using and abusing this situation to the bitter end to push its own agenda."

A report this month by the influential U.S.-based Council on Foreign Relations said the growing importance of Turkey is resulting in Washington cultivating stronger ties.

Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Unal denies Ankara is following a more assertive policy.

"Countries like Turkey in NATO who are not EU members, but who are NATO members, they have to defend their legitimate rights and interests stemming from NATO membership," he said.

With Turkey increasingly playing an active role in NATO from Kosovo to Afghanistan, political observers warn the potential remains for tensions between Ankara and Brussels to be played out within the Atlantic alliance.

You May Like

Captured IS Militants Explain Why They Fought

Fighters from Turkey, Syria tell VOA Kurdish Service what drew them to extremism, jihad More

Security Experts Split on Kenyan Barrier Wall

Experts divided on whether initiative aiming to keep out al-Shabab militants is long-awaited solution or misguided effort More

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Officials say they hope to turn Manila into the next Macau, which has long been Asia’s gambling hub More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More