ISTANBUL | Between threats and chins, Turkey is careful to remain at the heart of the international game, without fear of haggling over its strengths and objections, at the risk of irritating its allies.
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War in Ukraine and maritime corridors, NATO enlargement, incursions into Iraq and to come in Syria, tensions with the Greek neighbor, Ankara finds itself on all regional issues to the advantage of its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in power since 2003 and candidate next year for an uncertain re-election.
From one file to another, he bangs his fist on the table, playing both security and the interests of his country.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has warned that a Turkish operation in northern Syria, as Erdogan threatens to "cleanse" the border area of the presence of Kurdish fighters, "would undermine regional stability". . But to stop it...
The threat arises in the midst of the debate on the entry of Sweden and Finland into NATO, which Ankara opposes by accusing them, precisely, of harboring "terrorists" from the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and their allies.
Those even targeted by the planned military operation in Syria to establish a 30 km wide “safe zone” along the Turkish border.
An offensive has already been underway since mid-April in northern Iraq for the same reasons.
“He is trying to turn (the question of NATO) into a diplomatic opportunity,” accuses Yektan Turkyilmaz, a researcher attached to the Central European University in Vienna.
“Sweden and Finland are forced to discuss Turkey's 'concerns'. Which in fact correspond to the right claimed by Turkey to call whoever it wants a "terrorist".
This way of occupying the stage also has domestic political purposes one year before the presidential election of June 2023, as Soner Cagaptay, Turkey specialist at the Washington Institute, suggests.
"Of course, Turkey has legitimate concerns about the PKK and YPG (Kurdish Democratic Union Party's armed wing in Syria) and their ties to Sweden," he said. "But even if (the Swedes) don't do everything (Erdogan) asks, he will end up claiming a victory that will have forced the Europeans to their knees."
“His image as a tough man will come out strengthened around the world and will also benefit him nationally,” he predicts.
Analysts interviewed by AFP also note Turkish hopes of taking advantage of the NATO file to settle that of the American F-16s, these fighter planes ordered and partially paid for, whose contract Washington suspended after Ankara had acquired a system Russian defense S-400.
The latest frictions with Greece, a partner in NATO, but accused by Erdogan of wanting to block the F-16 file in Washington, thus fit perfectly into Turkish strategy.
For Soner Cagaptay, "Erdogan sends a signal to (Joe) Biden: let's talk about my planes blocked by the Senate and I will be happy to lift my veto on NATO".
“His posture is certainly irritating, but his objections are often well-founded,” nuance geopolitical scientist Didier Billion, from the Institute of International and Strategic Relations (Iris) in Paris. “And beyond the blackmail, in the end a compromise will be found,” he bets.
Can we do without the Turkish Reis which has succeeded so far, the only regional power, in maintaining relations with Kyiv, armed with Turkish drones, without alienating Moscow.
"Thanks to its neutrality, even without significant progress, Turkey remains the trusted third party for mediation between Ukraine and Russia," notes Elizabete Aunina, from the University of Amsterdam.
The head of Russian diplomacy Sergei Lavrov arrives in Turkey on Wednesday to discuss the establishment of “corridors” in the Black Sea, to export Ukrainian cereals.
Ankara has offered its help and its fleet and, for the moment, Russia is pretending to consider it.
This will be Mr. Lavrov's second visit after talks in Antalya (south) in March, which remains the only face-to-face with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba since the start of the war.