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Soli Ozel: “Once again, Turkey is at a crossroads”

Soli Ozel: “Once again, Turkey is at a crossroads”We’ve talked with Mr. Soli Ozel, a faculty member at Kadir Has University and a columnist at Haberturk newspaper about West’s attitude following the failed coup attempt on July 15th; Turkey’s detente with Russia; and the issue of Gulen’s extradition which directly affects the relationship between Turkey and the U.S.

Were you expecting a coup attempt? When you look back today, were there any indicators?
When you look back, you find what you’re looking for. According to what I’ve learned afterwards, this was not such an unexpected incident for Ankara. But personally, I wasn’t expecting a coup. I didn’t think that the Gulenists were this strong within the army.

How do you see the West’s approach to the coup attempt? Can we call it a lack of empathy?
I personally think so. On October 10th terrorist attack, the ambassadors got together and placed flowers at the scene of attack. That was the right thing to do. They acted similarly after the attack on the Ataturk Airport. On June 15th,  -whether you like the ruling party or not- Turkey’s Parliament was bombed. And while the Parliament building was still under attack, all the political parties of this country convened at that very building. The President of EP could have at least taken this into consideration and taken a stance, accordingly. Or, an EU representative could have come here to tell us, “You have weathered a great storm.” Or even further speak before the parliament and say, “Turkish democracy have gone through the hoop. We admire your courage. Now that there is such unity and solidarity, let there be no more tension. Build a decent democracy, strive to fully apply the principles of the rule of law.” However, as much as I can see, the first part of this, came very short. Maybe it’s because the coup was rapidly botched, or because of the scenes on the streets right after the coup attempt or because of the state of emergency which was declared afterwards. They should have shown solidarity first and then criticize.


Before the coup attempt, the relationship between Turkey and the EU and the U.S. was not at their best. After the coup attempt, the first countries that showed support were Iran and Russia. Are we turning our backs to the West? Is it possible to say we’re shifting our axis?
There has been so much talk of Turkey’s axis shifting that you would think it is spinning now for years. Within the last 6 years, there has been so much talk of a shift that this last one is only one of the many. There’s no doubt, there are serious issues. However, things are working with Europe. 5-6 days ago, the President signed the migrant deal and the deal went into effect. The U.S. head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff came to Turkey. Turkey has more problems. Especially the issue of Gulen’s extradition to Turkey will poison these relations further. I believe it’s not possible anymore for the Americans to avoid this issue. Turkey has compiled a file and delivered it to the authorities, we are told. Now, it’s necessary to talk with the Americans more eloquently. Americans should take this issue more seriously. As for Russia, I believe Turkey should ameliorate its relations with Russia. It’s possible, but under these circumstances, it wouldn’t be an egalitarian relationship.

Do you think the U.S. will extradite Gulen or send him to a third country?
For the time being, I have no clue, but this issue is for sure a litmus test for Turkish-American relations.

Dani Rodrik, Professor of Economy at Harvard University wrote a very pessimistic article about Turkey saying that in the best-case scenario Turkey will turn into Malaysia and in the worst case into Afghanistan. How do you foresee Turkey’s future?
Such encouraging options! I believe Turkey is at a crossroads. Indeed, we always end up at crossroads. Our path depends on the lessons we take from what has happened or where we want to go. One path to choose is to move forward together, when almost all political groups and fractions including the media, opposition parties take the right stance. Another path is saying “I’ve gotten stronger; I can have it my own way.” Even the state of emergency is a legal system, with rules, procedures, limits. If you choose a path which violates the law, the outcome will not be favorable. If you strive to abide by the law and keep the state of emergency period as short as possible, then you take a step towards normalization. As of now, which path will be chosen is not clear. I drew an analogy recently. I compared Turkey to a patient who has just suffered a major heart attack. I’m just hoping that this patient won’t be put on a stress test, once again.

CHP and MHP were invited to the Democracy and Martyrs Rally on August 7. HDP is always left out when it comes to such events…

I don’t find this right. Whether HDP will be included in the system or not, or whether HDP’s constituents will be respected are significant factors of the path chosen.

Karel Valansi Şalom Gazetesi 10 August 2016

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