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Cracks in Nato as Washington-Ankara relations worsen

residents Hassan Rouhani of Iran, Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and Vladimir Putin of Russia pose before their meeting in Ankara, Turkey April 4, 2018.
residents Hassan Rouhani of Iran, Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and Vladimir Putin of Russia pose before their meeting in Ankara, Turkey April 4, 2018. Reuters

Turkey is to extend its state of emergency for the seventh time. Introduced after a coup attempt in 2016, the state of emregency gives wide powers to the state, while limiting the activities of civil society and the press.


Since the coup attempt, thousands of civil servants, soldiers and journalists have been fired, temporarily detained or jailed because of their alleged involvement in the failed putsch or ties to its supposed organiser, US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.

On Monday demonstrations against the state of emergency reportedly took place in all of Turkey’s 81 provinces.

They were organised by the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP).

“I think that the state of emergency will be extended until the presidential elections in 2019,” says Joost Jongerden, a Kurdistan specialist with the Netherlands' Wageningen Univeristy.

“Because after the presidential elections in 2019, the power goes automatically with the executive and until that time they will extend the state of emergency to keep all the powers with the executive, with President Erdogan."

The measure will then be incorporated into the presidential system which was endorsed by a referendum last year.

Relations with US worsen

While Turkey is moving more and more towards one-man and one-party rule, relations between Washington and Ankara are getting worse.

On Monday US ambassador Sam Brownback said a court's decision to keep American pastor Andrew Brunson in jail had created another obstacle to good relations.

Brunson was detained under the state of emergency laws and accused of having links with both Gulen and Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) rebels, charges he strongly denies.

The relationship between the US and Turkey "is going to have difficulty moving forward as long as Andy Brunson is incarcerated,” Brownback said in a statement outside the courtroom.

“And we fully believe that he is innocent of all charges against him. We thoroughly looked into this case multiple times and we believe he is innocent."

Some argue that Brunson's case should be seen as a separate issue to the current problems between the US and Turkey.

“Turkey banned missionary activities,” says Professor Iltar Turan of Bilgi University in Istanbul.

“So for this type of a ban, which is incomprehensible for Americans, you always have an issue of irritation, and the reason for this ban goes to the Ottoman time, where the missionaries were held responsible for stimulating minority nationalists. And the suspicion that has been generated at that time continues even today and the missionaries are looked upon as troublemaking political agents.”

Kurdish question

On the Turkish side, Ankara is angry about Washington's support for the People's Protection Units, Kurdish militias in northern Syria who are linked to the PKK, which the Turkish government has been fighting for several decades.

On top of that, there’s the recent rapprochement between Turkey and Russia, something Washington may see as a Nato ally linking up with the enemy, leading to heightened tensions in the military alliance.


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