In the backdrop of events involving Israel, Hamas, Gaza, and the October 7th terrorist attack, significant shifts are occurring in Turkey's stance in the region and President Tayyip Erdogan's rhetoric.
This development coincides with ongoing developments in Cypriot and Greek-Turkish dialogue. On Wednesday, President Erdogan took a clear stance in favor of Hamas, rejecting its designation as a terrorist organization and even referring to its fighters as 'Mujahid' (legitimate holy fighters).
Erdogan went a step further by announcing the severance of relations with Israel for the duration of the ongoing conflict. This decision comes less than 48 hours after Turkey ratified Sweden's NATO membership, a move signaling Turkey's complex relationship with the West.
After nearly twenty days of Hamas's terrorist activities on October 7th, which led to an escalation of tensions in the Middle East and influenced Erdogan's position, three noteworthy facts have emerged:
1. The alignment of nationalist factions within the MHP with Erdogan's Islamist supporters, both inside and outside the AKP, makes it difficult for President Erdogan to distance himself from Hamas, with whom Turkey has had longstanding ideological and political affinities.
2. The Arab-Muslim world's reaction to Israeli Air Force bombings in the Gaza Strip, particularly concerning civilian casualties, leaves Turkey with limited room to differentiate itself from the dominant responses in the Middle East and the Gulf.
3. The U.S. response to the deployment of Carrier Strike Groups in the eastern Mediterranean, led by aircraft carriers, does not rely on NATO support logistics in Turkey but utilizes the U.S. base in Souda.
Erdogan's recent stance appears to signal a potential rift with the West and the EU, particularly at a time when developments are ongoing in the Greek-Turkish dialogue and in the Cyprus issue.
The situation in the Middle East, marked by the Israel-Hamas conflict, raises questions about whether Turkey will further distance itself from the West or seek diplomatic opportunities in the eastern Mediterranean and the MENA region.
Turkey's foreign policy goals include supporting an international conference on the Palestinian issue, offering to be a "guarantor" in creating a Palestinian state, and seeking a role in resolving the issue of Hamas hostages. The outcome of these efforts remains uncertain."