World View: Bombing of Turkey’s Airport Affects a Swirl of Diplomatic Actions

Turkish police officers block the main entrance of the Ataturk airport in Istanbul on June 28, 2016

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Mutual UK-EU loathing at the European Parliament in Brussels
  • Bombing of Turkey’s airport affects a swirl of diplomatic actions

Mutual UK-EU loathing at the European Parliament in Brussels

Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon in Brussels on Tuesday
Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon in Brussels on Tuesday

While not threatening an immediate spiral into a global crisis, the Brexit situation continues every day to cause a great deal of geopolitical deterioration and damage of a kind that is likely to lead to a serious crisis in time.

Britain’s government melted down further on Tuesday, as far-left Labor Party chief Jeremy Corbyn was given a big vote of no-confidence, with 172 Labor MPs voting no confidence, while only 40 supported him. However, he was elected leader last year by a wide margin among Labor MPs, and he says he will not step down. This leaves both British parties without effective leadership.

The real action on Tuesday occurred at the meeting of the European Parliament in Brussels. Nigel Farage, who is the head of Britain’s anti-immigrant anti-Europe Ukip party, is also an MEP (member of European parliament). In Brussels on Tuesday, he stood to speak and he used the time to gloat:

Funny, isn’t it. You know, when I came here 17 years ago, and I said that I wanted to lead a campaign to get Britain to leave the European Union, you all laughed at me. Well I have to say, you’re not laughing now are you?

He also accused all the other 700 MEPs of never having done a hard day’s work in their lives, or of ever creating a job.

Parliament president Jean-Claude Jüncker accused Farage of lying repeatedly during the Brexit campaign, and said “You were fighting for the exit, the British people voted in favor of the exit – why are you here?”

EU officials are described as sad and angry, and they are especially angry at David Cameron for even allowing the referendum in the first place. Jüncker said clearly that Brexit was “a fact,” and there would be no going back. He also ordered all the MEPs not to conduct any negotiations with British officials, until Britain’s government invokes “Article 50,” which launches the two-year negotiation process. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that there would be no “cherry picking,” meaning that Britain would not be permitted to pick and choose which EU regulations it obeys if it wants to be part of EU’s Single Market.

The UK government is still in chaos, and still lost in the wilderness, and has no idea what to do next. Both Scotland and Northern Ireland are demanding that a way be found to keep them in the EU. The Scottish MEP Alyn Smith reminded the Brussels Parliament that Scotland voted overwhelmingly against Brexit: “We will need cool heads and warm hearts but please remember this – Scotland did not let you down. I beg you: do not let Scotland down now.”

Jüncker and other EU officials seem resigned that Britain will not invoke Article 50 at least until September 9, when David Cameron will be replaced by a new Prime Minister. Jüncker’s nightmare scenario is that the UK will keep stalling indefinitely, without invoking Article 50, leaving the EU in unending limbo. On Wednesday, there will be a meeting of the leaders of 27 EU members and, for the first time in 40 years, the UK will be excluded.

There is a real feeling of mutual disgust and loathing between EU and UK officials now, and that the negotiations will be harsh and bitter.

On the other hand, in view of the chaos and bitterness, fears of other EU countries trying to conduct their own exit referendums seem diminished now. Nobody else wants to go through the same thing. BBC and Guardian (London) and BBC

Bombing of Turkey’s airport affects a swirl of diplomatic actions

At least 36 people were killed on Monday by three coordinated suicide bombings in Ataturk National Airport on the European side of Istanbul, Turkey. No one has claimed responsibility, but Turkish officials say that the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) was responsible.

The Ataturk airport is a major international airport. Not only is it the biggest commercial hub in Turkey, it is one of the largest airports in the world, and a major international traffic hub.

The bombing comes just one day after Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan completed two diplomatic initiatives. First, the reconciliation with Israel was announced after Erdogan softened his demand that Israel end its blockade of Gaza, and agreed to a compromise, as we described on Sunday.

Second, it was revealed that Erdogan finally apologized to Russia for shooting down the Russian warplane last year. Russia’s president Vladimir Putin has demanded that Erdogan apologize and provide compensation to the families of the victims. Whether it was an accident or on purpose that both diplomatic announcements occurred on the same day, it certainly appears that Erdogan is changing some of his hardline attitudes.

There is a third major diplomatic issue reaching a potential crisis this week. June 30 is the deadline set by Turkey for the European Union to lift visa restrictions on Turkey, so that any of Turkey’s 72 million citizens can travel freely around Europe’s Schengen zone. This is Turkey’s requirement in exchange for the EU-Turkey migrant deal. This deal has been extremely successful, in that it has reduced the flow of migrants entering Greece from Turkey to dozens per day, down from hundreds or thousands per day.

EU officials have said they will not lift the visa restrictions unless Turkey improves its human rights record, particularly by not using anti-terrorism laws to jail journalists. Turkish officials have said repeatedly that if the visa restrictions aren’t lifted, then Turkey will renege on the migrant deal, and allow an unrestricted flow of migrants to cross the Aegean Sea again to Greece.

Turkey has refused in the past to weaken the anti-terrorism laws, and Tuesday’s airport attack can only redouble that resolve.

There have been no recent statements from Turkey about reneging on the migrant deal, so right now it looks like Thursday is going to come and go with no change in the status quo. If so, it will be the third time this week that Erdogan will have backed down diplomatically. Hurriyet (Ankara) and Daily Sabah (Ankara) and Observer

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Britain, European Union, Jeremy Corbyn, Nicola Sturgeon, Nigel Farage, Ukip, David Cameron, Jean-Claude Jüncker, Angela Merkel, Alyn Smith, Turkey, Istanbul, Ataturk National Airport, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria/Sham/the Levant, IS, ISIS, ISIL, Daesh, Gaza, Russia, Vladimir Putin
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