The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Foreign Affairs
, in partnership with the Legatum Institute, hosted a meeting in the House of Commons with Ünal Çeviköz
, immediate past Ambassador of Turkey
to the United Kingdom
, to discuss recent developments in Turkey
Çeviköz opened the session with a discussion of the attempted coup on 15 July. He explained that it had caused significant national trauma throughout Turkish society. While Turkey has had previous experience of coups, this attempt was, according to Çeviköz, palpably different. The violent clashes were unlike previous political unrest in the country, and, symbolically, it was the first time that the Turkish parliament had been bombed. This was an attack on parliamentary democracy itself.
In so underlining the severity of the event and its impact on the population, Çeviköz explained that many Turks felt that their Western allies had underplayed the significance of the coup attempt, and had been slow to express empathy and support for Turkey. By contrast, the Turkish people were quick to unify across political divides in protests against the attempted coup and in defence of democratic principles.
That being said, recent changes in the political atmosphere have fractured this post-coup unity. Despite widespread purges and a general acceptance that the transnational Gülenist movement played a significant role, it is still unclear who was behind the coup. Çeviköz argued that, ultimately, we would have to wait until trials were held in order to see justice done.
In the mean-time though, Çeviköz worried that the scale of the crackdown might have undesirable consequences. Those accused of involvement will struggle to find jobs in the future and this divide risks being institutionalised as a key fault-line in Turkish politics. Already, the main opposition party in Turkey has distanced itself from the crackdown. Moreover, removing such a large number of bureaucrats risks damaging the Turkish state’s capacity to carry out the basic functions of statehood.
Çeviköz stressed that this vulnerability was important to understand given Turkey’s more forthright foreign policy. President Erdoğan has made it clear that the current Turkish operation against Islamic State will continue in Syria, and possibly Iraq. Alongside a recently inflamed Kurdish issue in the south-east, Turkey’s domestic and foreign policy will require skilled civil servants to manage.
Çeviköz regretted the fact that the dialogue process with the PKK had fallen apart and that both sides seemed intent on a military solution. Çeviköz argued that they could learn from the 1998 Good Friday agreement which brought to a close over three decades of conflict in Northern Ireland. Given that Turkish foreign policy affects its domestic policy—and vice versa—Çeviköz said that, until peace was secured within and on Turkey’s borders, Turkey risked unrest.
Nevertheless, Çeviköz identified a series of opportunities which Turkey could pursue in the coming years. The UK’s decision to leave the European Union might allow for a more agile and direct relationship between Turkey and the UK. In fact, how Britain’s relationship with the EU develops in the wake of the referendum might offer an interesting model for Turkey.
The Legatum Institute is delighted to act as Honorary Secretariat to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Foreign Affairs, co-chaired by Khalid Mahmood MP and Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne.
About the Speaker
Ünal Çeviköz has BA's in English Literature and Political Science, and an MA in International Relations. He joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1978 and worked at the Turkish Embassies of Moscow and Sofia. In 1989 he joined NATO’s International Secretariat; in 1994, he launched the NATO Information Office in Moscow; and in 1997 he prepared the NATO-Russia Founding Act. He served as Turkey’s Ambassador to Azerbaijan (2001-2004), to Iraq (2004-2006) and to the UK (2010-2014). He was Deputy Undersecretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2007-2010). In 2009, he prepared protocols between Turkey and Armenia. He retired from government service in 2014. He was President of the 28th General Assembly of International Maritime Organization (2013-2015) and he is currently President of the Ankara Policy Centre and a columnist at Hürriyet.
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