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PM Erdoğan has to be consistent to be credible

Prime Minister Erdoğan has a peculiar habit. He sets high targets with his various initiatives, outbursts or statements and then fails to meet those targets himself. We have seen this in Ankara’s efforts at rapprochement with Armenia, as well as his angry remarks against Israeli President Shimon Peres at Davos.

In the first of these examples it only took a display of Azeri ire and for Baku to activate nationalist forces in Turkey for Erdoğan to step down on efforts to normalize ties with Yerevan. So much so that one wondered why his government put so much effort into this process over a period of time it was so fragile.

As for the second example cited above, it took even less time for him to step down when he said, within hours of his reaction at Davos, that his anger was not aimed at Mr. Peres but at the moderator conducting the debate.

But it was to Mr. Peres that he had leveled his strong accusation when he said, "You know very well how to kill," with reference to the Israeli operation in Gaza.

Not being able to stand behind his government’s initiatives, or his own words (even if these are unnecessarily harsh, as they were at Davos), one is left wondering what to make of his latest remarks about the expulsion of non-Muslim minorities from Turkey, and his reference to these events as the product of a "fascist mentality."

The same applies to his castigation - in the same speech - of those who criticize business dealings with Israel, indicating these people to be narrow minded and out of touch with the realities that govern the world.

He was in this instance referring to the strong criticism of his government for planning to give a mine clearance contract on Turkey’s border with Syria to an Israeli company, and of leasing these lands for agricultural purposes to Israeli companies.

No one can doubt that these are positive statements that require courage in the present political atmosphere that prevails in Turkey. Therefore, one should, under normal circumstances, compliment Prime Minister Erdoğan for saying these things. But what is confusing people is the fact that it was the same Erdoğan, only a few days before, who in an indirect way, brought to the fore the notion of expelling 40,000 Armenians who are working illegally in Turkey.

More than this though, if the expulsion or the driving away by various means of the members of Turkey’s Greek, Armenian and Jewish minorities in the past was bad, as indeed it was, then he is the one at the helm of government, and therefore the one to work out some restitution in this regard, for example by returning seized property that belongs to the Orthodox church in Turkey.

This is also what many commentators have been saying after his remarks uttered at a regional congress of his Justice and Development Party, or AKP, in the town of Düzce a few days ago.

And no doubt these questions will continue to be asked in the coming days.

But there is another matter that has not been highlighted sufficiently in Turkey, and which also provides a test of consistency as far as Erdoğan is concerned. During the recently held Eurasian Islamic Council meeting in Istanbul, Erdogan, in what were also brave remarks, questioned for the first time why it was that Muslims today are associated with violence, and suggested that the Islamic world should engage in self-criticism with regard to this issue.We also felt at the time that Erdoğan’s anger at Israel over the Gaza operation was justified, and reflected a general sentiment around the world. But we felt nevertheless that he had gone overboard in Davos with his remarks aimed at President Peres (who admittedly was not that diplomatic himself), given that such situations call for those at the head of governments in serious countries to be a little more delicate.

But his outrage over the images of dead Palestinian children, which any civilized person must share, also requires, for the sake of consistency, that he show similar outrage when Hamas or groups like it carry out acts of terrorism, which provide us with similar inhuman images.

We do not, however, recall such an expression of outrage from Prime Minister Erdoğan on those occasions. But is there no connection between the fact that the world thinks of violence, when it thinks of Muslims - as Erdoğan himself put it - and the lack of, or low-key response, in the face of acts of terrorism committed in the name of Islam or by Islamic groups?

If Prime Minister Erdoğan, is serious in questioning these things, and in opening the doors to self-criticism, something that Turks are not very good at, then he has to keep asking these questions in a consistent manner and try to find answers. If he does this, then it is clear that he will increase his credibility in Turkey and abroad.

Otherwise he merely ends up confusing people by first saying these things and then going on to either step down or say something that contradicts his initial remarks.

All that he achieves in the end is to have more questions asked about his seriousness and credibility. This is why we don’t know what to make of these recent remarks of his, which, as we indicated, are positive and are expressions of the truth.
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