Opinion: Time for Erdogan to change course | Opinion | DW | 01.07.2016
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Opinion: Time for Erdogan to change course

No country in Europe is being hit more by terrorism at the moment than Turkey. But the Turkish president is responding more flexibly than many would have thought, says DW's Alexander Kudascheff.

On both a human and political level, Turkey is still stunned by the attacks on Istanbul airport. Even though the airport was reopened after a short breather, and even though normal life appears to have resumed. Yet this quick return to normality also conceals a denial of the situation. Turkey is, and will remain, in the crosshairs of Islamist and Kurdish terrorism. The country's internal security is under threat and life is dangerous. The consequences are obvious.

The main effect is that tourist numbers have plummeted. Vacationers no longer go to Turkey, which means a key economic sector in the country has been pushed to the brink of collapse. Hundreds of thousands of people will be affected – they will lose their jobs; they will not have an income. That puts Turkey's erratic President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a tight spot. Turks have shrugged off many of his unilateral actions - as long as the Turkish economy was doing well. But now, everything is falling apart, including international investments in the country.

What do Turkish intelligence agencies know?

It is also important to determine how weak Turkish intelligence agencies actually are. How little do they know? After all, intelligence services are apparently able to identify the voices of opposition in Turkey and abroad. Do they really know so little? Or do they not want to know more? These are urgent questions.

Kudascheff Alexander Kommentarbild App

DW Editor-in-Chief Alexander Kudascheff

Although it seems unexpected, Ankara has undergone an astonishing turnaround in foreign policy this week, as evident on two occasions: Erdogan fixed his relationship with Israel and he apologized to Russian President Vladimir Putin for the downing of a Russian fighter plane and the subsequent shooting of the pilot on the ground. Erdogan thus tried to break out of his country's increasing international isolation. That means two problems have been straightened out. Furthermore, he is now seeking talks with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in order to reinforce traditional ties.

Turkey's initial approaches mark a reprisal of the country's role as a serious foreign influence in the troubled Middle East. Turkey's most important problem lies at its doorstep, right on the border: the Syrian civil war. Turkey has taken in millions of refugees. Right from the first day of carnage, Erdogan believed that the end of the war was only possible without Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Better relations with Moscow may now mean that Turkey could have its say in Syria, maybe even with Assad.

Getting the country out of its predicament

Erdogan wants to put an end to his diplomatic isolation. His goals are forcing him to renew old alliances. It is now clear that Erdogan is more pragmatic than many believe. He can also show Berlin his sensible side again and hope to detoxify relations. It would benefit both countries, especially the many Turks living in Germany who found his recent rants against Germany appalling or even frightening - just as many of them were upset about the German parliament's decision to recognize the Armenian massacre as genocide.

Erdogan is trying to free his country from its foreign affairs predicament. But it is equally important that he appease the people living in Turkey. This necessitates a return to finding a political solution for the Kurdish conflict. It means a return to freedom of press and speech. It means a return to Turkish democracy. It also means ending the attempt to turn Turkey into an autocracy. Because that has not done anything to banish the threat of Islamist terrorism.

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