Ozkok’s shadow

The remarks made by the chief of Turkey’s armed forces in his recent interview with Eleftherotypia daily were clearly aimed at pre-empting Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul and setting the contours of his official visit that started yesterday. General Hilmi Ozkok’s comments were a reminder that the political administration in Ankara is held hostage to the will of the military bureaucracy. The message is clear and convincing. Had this happened in any democratic state, the army chief would be instantly sacked. However, the situation in Turkey is different. Even if we accept that Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan is driven by benign intentions, his efforts to find a modus vivendi with the military finally succumb to their blackmail policy. Ozkok’s statements were a rude awakening. He reminded us that extending our sea borders is a casus belli for Turkey; reiterated the expansionist claim of gray zones in the Aegean Sea (although excepting Gavdos, south of Crete); and emphasized that the occupying forces will not be withdrawn from Cyprus. A new element was the indirect but clear attempt of the military establishment to use Cyprus and the Aegean disputes as a lever to push for Turkey’s EU membership. This explains his suggestion that the two neighbors could resolve their age-old differences in a week if Ankara got a green light to join the bloc. Ozkok’s approach is pervaded by a Levantine conception of political bargaining which is out of line with European standards.