TOWARDS STRONGER EU-TURKEY RELATIONS
The first of British Institute of Turkish Affairs Seminar Series events on Turkish politics was held on 19 October 2015 at the House of Commons, with Mr Metin Kulunk, Turkish MP and a senior member of the ruling AK Party Foreign Affairs Committee as the keynote speaker. It was kindly hosted by Anne Main MP and moderated by Murad Gassanly, BITAF Programme Director.
Mr Kulunk reiterated Turkey's commitment to an "open door" policy when it comes to Syrian refugees and reiterated President Erdogan's stated policy of providing maximum support to those fleeing violence.
Mr Kulunk also repeated Turkish government position that a peaceful settlement to Syrian conflict is impossible as long as President Assad remains in power. He also expressed concern at Russia's and Iran's interventions in support of the Assad regime. At the same time, he expressed hope that Turkish-Russian relations will normalise, especially in light of the two countries' burgeoning energy partnership, and did not rule out AKP support for the Moscow-backed Turkish Stream gas pipeline project.
Turkey faces a dual terror threat from ISIS and Kurdish separatist PKK. Mr Kulunk made it clear that Turkey will continue to meet both threats robustly, especially in light of the terrible terror attack in Ankara. Moreover, terrorism will not be allowed to undermine Turkish democracy and the parliamentary election on 1 November will go ahead as planned.
One particular theme tonight was a sense of growing impatience that many in Turkey feel about Western and specifically European response. There is undoubtedly a strong anti-Turkish bias in sections of Western media and political establishment. For example, there has not been a strong enough condemnation of PKK terrorism in Europe.
Neither has there been a real recognition and appreciation of Turkey's role in alleviating the plight of Syrian refugees - over 2 million have sought safety in Turkey since 2012. Ankara incurred over $8 billion in costs associated with the crisis. Mr Kulunk repeatedly pointed out that Turkey's European partners are not doing enough to deal with the issue. EU should be supporting Turkey - this is the subject of President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an's meetings with European leaders. At the same time AK Party is going into the elections with a clearly stated aim of continuing with Turkey's European integration.