Nato sanctions targeting only Austria, Turkey cannot sustain crisis

A Turkish flag (R) flies among others flags of NATO members during the North Atlantic Council (NAC) at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, July 28, 2015. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/File Photo - RTSRWLT

Statements by Turkish officials that Ankara would sanction Nato partners following tensions with some EU countries over holding rallies in European cities has resulted in sanctions only against Austria so far.

The spokeswoman for Turkey’s mission in Nato’s Brussels office, Fatma Pasaoglu, said, “There were some tensions with Austria and they obstructed meetings. However this [sanctions] only target Austria, not other partners,” Turkish sources reported.

A Nato official told Reuters recently that Ankara had stopped some political meetings, civilian projects and military training with countries that weren’t NATO members.

Turkey’s decision was taken after Austria prevented Turkish officials holding rallies in support of April’s constitutional referendum seeking executive presidential powers for current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkish government officials have been accused of exacerbating tensions with Germany, the Netherlands and other European countries to consolidate the nationalist vote ahead of the referendum.

Despite threatening to sanction the Netherlands, Turkey has not taken any concrete steps in this regard.

Commentators have said Ankara is bluffing and officials will continue ramping up tensions until the referendum.

Speaking to GazeteDuvar, Prof. Ilhan Uzgel, an expert in international relations, said the Turkish AKP government had instrumentalised the EU during its tenure in power and had targeted it because it had used up all its ‘enemies’ within the country.

“Europe was the softest target. Islamophobia, racism is on the rise and there are Turks living there. Therefore Europe was a good choice for another ‘victimisation narrative’. The AKP always struggles when it cannot create ‘enemies’ and enmity,” Uzgel said.

The professor, who was recently dismissed from his position with a government decree law, added that the crisis with the Netherlands is not sustainable for Turkey.

“Turkey is a fragile country and the Netherlands is an important investment and trade partner and also provides tourism income. Therefore it is impossible for [Ankara] to sustain this crisis over a mid-long term period.”

The diplomatic crisis has favoured Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in the country’s general election on Wednesday as he managed to keep right-wing firebrand politician Geert Wilders at arms length to come out as the first party from the ballot.

Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg recently urged Turkey to “show mutual respect, to be calm and have a measured approach to contribute to de-escalate the tensions.”