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Turkey’s “street name” diplomacy

Turkey’s “street name” diplomacy

Since it came to power in 2002 Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s governments have generously contributed to Turkish diplomacy by inventing a flurry of methods and tactics no other nation could have thought of.

At the turn of the Arab Spring we saw “so-fast-from-brother-Assad-to-villain-Assad” diplomacy. The “recall-resend-recall-your-ambassador” diplomacy has been a shrewd method to punish adversaries although it heavily added to the Foreign Ministry’s logistical budget.

A decade ago “football” diplomacy would normalise Turkey’s diplomatic relations with neighbouring Armenia. It did not. But never mind. It was a nice shot.

“Zig-zag” and “re-zig-zag” diplomacy has made Turkey’s opponents dizzy when they tried in vain to understand where Turkey really belonged. In fact, it was merely a tactic to cause confusion as Turkey did not belong anywhere.

All the same, the most successful Turkish invention was probably countless aspects of its “a-Rover-with-Rolls-Royce-ambitions” diplomacy. It is still one of the pillars of Turkish diplomacy.

The “street-name” diplomacy is not new. Amid diplomatic tensions with France several years ago then mayor of Ankara, Melih Gokcek, proposed to rename Paris Street (where the French embassy is located) “Algiers Street” to remind drivers and passers by of the French atrocities against Algerians during Algeria’s war of independence.

More recently, the Ankara city council changed the name of the street where the embassy of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is located to Fakhreddin Pasha, the historical figure at the centre of a diplomatic row in which UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahayan retweeted accusations that Ottoman forces led by Fakhreddin Pasha stole money and manuscripts from Medina in 1916 during World War One when the city was under Ottoman rule.

Newswires reported on February 12th that the Ankara city council would now propose to change the name of the street where the U.S. embassy is located to “Olive Branch” in reference to the code name of the Turkish military incursion into neighbouring Syria.

Since this strategy has worked successfully in efforts to “make Turkey imperial again” here are a few suggestions from this columnist:

  1. Change the name of the street where the Saudi embassy is located to Tehran Street. Simultaneously change the name of the street where Iranian embassy is located to Wahhabi Street.
  2. Change the name of the street where the Israeli embassy is located to Hamas Street. The actual Palestine Street can be renamed Palestine Al-Quds Street.
  3. Change the name of the street where the Chinese embassy is located to East Turkestan Street.
  4. Change the name of the street where the Syrian embassy is located to Free Syrian Army Street.
  5. Change the name of the street where the Dutch embassy is located to Heroine Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya Street.

The Greek Cypriots and Armenians are lucky not to have a diplomatic representation in Ankara. So are Egypt, Germany, Italy, Serbia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Austria as their embassies are located on Ataturk Boulevard.

About The Author

Burak Bekdil

Burak Bekdil is an Ankara-based Turkish political columnist who wrote for Hurriyet Daily News [formerly Turkish Daily News] for 29 years. He has covered Turkey for the U.S. weekly Defense News since 1997. Previously, Bekdil worked as Ankara Bureau Chief for Dow Jones Newswires and CNBC-e television. He contributes to annual national defense sector reviews for anti-corruption institutions like Transparency International and Global Integrity. Bekdil is a fellow at the Middle East Forum and regularly writes for the Gatestone Institute and Middle East Quarterly. He also contributes to Perspectives, a journal of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, Bar-Ilan University, Tel Aviv. James Cuno, art historian and President of the J. Paul Getty Trust, describes Bekdil as "a frequent critic of Prime Minister [now president] Recep Tayyip Erdogan." In 2001, a Heavy Crimes Court in Ankara sentenced Bekdil to a suspended, 20-month prison sentence for his column in which he satirized corruption in the judiciary. Bekdil's comments, quotes and articles have been published in international media outlets including the Wall Street Journal, The Economist, BBC, The Guardian, Reuters, Associated Press, Bloomberg, Los Angeles Times, The Commentator, New York Times, Kathimerini, National Review Online, Algemeiner, NPR, Washington Times, Die Presse, Haaretz, The Jerusalem Post, Toronto Star, Financial Times, Al-Monitor, Le Figaro, ABC, El Pais, Stern, Al-Arabiya, Helsingin Sanomat, Racjonalista, Defence Greece, Moyen-Orient, Courier International, ISN Security Watch and Coloquio (of Congreso Judio Latinoamerico) and the Jewish Chronicle (London). (Born: Ankara, 1966; Undergraduate: Department of Economics, Middle East Technical University, Ankara; Post-graduate: Department of Economics, University of Surrey, United Kingdom)

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