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President Erdogan and President Putin. Picture: Kremlin/ CC-BY 4.0

Is Erdogan blackmailing Europe again?

On March 5, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is planning to visit Istanbul. There she will talk about the situation in Syria together with the presidents of Turkey, Russia and France.

Published: February 28, 2020, 9:19 am

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    Turkish and Russian troops are stationed directly in Syria, with French special forces also on the ground. There is therefore no doubt that questions of military security in Syria are important for these countries.

    But what does the German Chancellor have to do with this, since her major problems lie at home in Germany? Foreign analysts agree: Against the background of domestic political defeats, the German Chancellor is trying to present herself as an influential international actor and diplomat – but at what price?

    On February 20, a spokesperson for the German government said that Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron had contacted Russian President Vladimir Putin to express their concern about the humanitarian situation in the Syrian region of the Idlib.

    The two heads of government thus effectively sided with the Turkish President, who has been demanding for several weeks that Russia stop the Syrian armed forces in the Idlib region. For several months now, the Syrian army has been attacking the jihadist positions in this province. Idlib is considered the last stronghold of the Islamists in Syria.

    But Italy is increasingly dissatisfied with Erdogan’s policy. Rome is outraged that Erdogan is not abiding by agreements in Syria – the Turkish ambassador in Rome has been summoned to the Italian Foreign Ministry, where he was told forthwith that such unilateral decisions were “unacceptable”.

    The former Italian Deputy Prime Minister, Matteo Salvini, is also dissatisfied with Erdogan’s policy of active support for the radical Sunni Muslim Brotherhood abroad, which has been leading to the Islamisation and radicalisation of Europe – mainly because of uncontrolled mass migration.

    Salvini described Erdogan as president of a bloody and Islamic regime. In October last year, Salvini said that the European Union should withdraw funding from Turkey immediately in order not to further promote Erdogan’s crimes.

    Meanwhile, the Libyan government under ruler Fayiz Sarraj refuses to stem the flow of African migrants on its territory, preferring to “resettle” Africans to Europe. This was openly stated by the Libyan Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha during a meeting with the Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio in Tripoli: “The idea of settling immigrants, like all other issues concerning Libyan sovereignty, is rejected and not accepted by the Libyans.”

    Due to the insecurity and chaos in Libya after its total collapse in 2011, the North African country became the preferred transit country for migrants hoping to cross the Mediterranean to Europe.

    According to the “International Organization for Migration” (IOM), there are currently over 600 000 illegal immigrants in Libya who want to enter Europe.

    Originally Italy supported the Libyan government under Sarraj, but in view of recent developments, the Italian government has been trying to play on two fronts: It is increasingly disappointed with Sarraj´s government and is inclined to support General Khalifa Haftar, Sarraj´s militarily successful challenger in Libya.

    However, Italy continues to seek dialogue with the Sarraj government. Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio noted: “Italy will play a decisive role in any European decision. No one knows Libya like we do, no one knows it like Italy several hundred kilometers from its shores. There is a danger of terrorism that should not be underestimated – countries that ignore peace and continue to arm the parties on the ground. We cannot accept this.”

    carstenfromm@app-6271a6d1c1ac18bb0c1965d2.closte.com

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