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L’évolution de la politique de la Turquie vis-à-vis de la Syrie suscite une interrogation, nourrit une incertitude et peut paraître assez inattendue sinon mystérieuse. La Turquie qui a lancé une politique novatrice extrêmement intéressante, qui impliquait une prise de distance significative du bloc BAO se retrouve, avec l’affaire syrienne, complètement réincorporée dans une politique qui est celle du bloc BAO. Pourquoi ?
Le site The Voice of Russia a publié le 26 février 2012 une interview du professeur Gareth Jenkins, Senior Associate Fellow du Silk Road Studies Program et du programme Turkey Initiative de la Jones Hopkins University. Le sujet en était «Extraordinary turnaround in Turkish Policy». Nous en extrayons les passages consacrés à la question des relations actuelles de la Turquie avec la Syrie et de l'évolution récente de la politique syrienne de la Turquie.
Jenkins fait jouer un grand rôle aux attitudes personnelles, notamment la frustration d’une certaine attitude de certitude et de fierté des deux principaux dirigeants turcs (Erdogan et son ministre des affaires étrangères). La question de la concurrence d'influence entre la Turquie et l'Iran est également posée. Par rapport au constat que nous faisons ci-dessus, nous dirions qu'il y a interférence et contradiction entre la politique générale de la Turquie (distance du bloc BAO) et sa politique régionale qui la ramène objectivement plus proche du bloc BAO. (Jenkins précise par ailleurs que cette évolution lui paraît conjoncturelle et temporaire.) L’explication nous semble assez fondée et, dans tous les cas, intéressante…
Question «If we get to Syria, could you specify Turkish position on that because the signals which we were seeing in the press are quite contradictory?»
Jenkins : «What we saw is that in several authoritarian regimes in the Arab world, we saw an extraordinary turnaround in Turkish policy. Turkey worked very hard on getting very close relations with Bashar Assad and I think that they thought that they almost that in their pocket in the sense that they reestablished joined cabinet meetings with the government, then they have opened the border, polished visa restrictions, boosted trade and they really thought that they can tell him to do whatever they wanted him to do and of course he ignored them.
»And you heard that Tayyip Erdogan say in one point last year – I have been to Syria, I’ve seen how much the Syrian people love al-Assad and then a couple of months later, you know, the disturbances increased and he turned against him. And I think a lot of that is due to frustration because they thought Assad really was their man and they see that his closest ally really is Iran. So, I think there is a lot of damaged pride beyond this very angry rhetoric that comes out of the politicians now but it’s also because it has been damaging their reputation because particularly Foreign Minister Davutoglu before the Arab uprisings was saying that nothing happens in the region without us, and of course everything happened in the region and Turkey hasn’t been actively involved in having it happen.
»So, there is a damage to their pride there but it was also economically damaging to Turkey, not just because of the trade with Syria, but because the trade was with a lot of the Middle East countries – Lebanon, and countries like that and to a certain extent some of the trade going into Iraq is to go through Syria. So, it has been damaging on a number of levels.»
Question «If we try to take a rational stand, what does Turkey stand to gain form toppling of Assad?»
Jenkins : «I don’t know how rational one should be, there is not much rational motivation because I think a lot of this is emotional. So, we had this position when Turkey was trying to establish itself as the regional power and it had setbacks on the whole out of different fronts, you know, originally it supported Gaddafi. The only country where it backed the uprisings from the beginning was Egypt because it had bad relationship with Mubarak. And I think a lot of reaction on Syria is emotional. There is of course disquiet at civilian casualties but I don’t think that the only reason, that’s probably not the main reason. We haven’t seen the same sensitivity to civilian casualties in some other conflicts around the world, most notably in Sudan for example.
»So, I think a lot of this is to do with pride and to do with emotion and of course Syria is right on Turkey’s doorstep. But, you know, when they began to put pressure on Assad, when they decided that he should make reforms in order to try to defuse the protests. The Foreign Minister Davutoğlu went to Damascus and told him that he had to make reforms and basically Assad ignored him and a lot of the people in the ruling AK Party in Turkey who developed close relations within Assad’s inner circle became marginalized and this of course coincided anyway with a change in Turkey’s relationship with Iran where the old rivals resurfaced, the rivals are always there but they resurfaced.
»So, you’ve got this double impact of Assad not listening to Turkey and particularly Turkey’s Foreign Minister Davutoglu’s pride that he was listening to Iran which has then emerged as a rival, so I think that was a double blow to Turkey’s pride on top of the disquiet at the civilian casualties. And of course they also worried about the refugees. Turkey remembers 1991 when a lot of Iraqi Kurds came to the border and this was a huge challenge for Turkey. And ever since the unrest started in Syria, there have been concerns that there might be mass accidents with the possible destabilizing effect on the region of Turkey if they come across the border. We have other considerations both practical and humanitarian but I think the main factor here is emotion and pride, and that’s why it’s probably a mistake to try to explain everything just purely in terms of rationality or real politic.»