An exclusive interview with Ilter Turan, emeritus professor of International Politics and Istanbul Bilgi University
1. Since the start of 2017, Astana has hosted several negotiation rounds on the Syrian crisis, including the participation of the Turkish delegation. Do you think these talks were efficient? If so, what was the role of Kazakhstan President in it?
The meetings in Astana have produced an agreement on safety zones in Syria which is important. The weakness of the talks is that the United States is not a full partner although it is becoming a more and more comprehensive actor in Syria. It is generally felt that President Nazarbayev has played a positive role in the negotiations and helped overcome some difficulties between Russia and Turkey. It is also important that Astana has managed to offer what appears to be an impartial home to the talks, elevating the status of the Kazakhstan as a positive actor in international politics.
2. What are the prospects for the format of the antiterrorist coalition in Syria under Presidents Trump and Macron?
I do not know. The French have a modest presence in Syria and the previous French government had indicated that France would be willing to assume a greater role there. But, Macron has just been elected. What kind of policy he would prefer to follow in Syria is not yet clear. He has many domestic items on his agenda before turning to Syria. Furthermore, he has not yet met with Mr. Trump which might constitute an occasion for France to review its Syrian and anti-terror policies and explore ways of cooperation with the United States.
3. In 2016, Bolivia, Italy, Kazakhstan, Sweden and Ethiopia were non-permanent members of the UN Security Council. Which of them, in your opinion, has the greatest potential for a more active involvement in the world geopolitics, and in addressing the current challenges that the humankind is facing? Although, judging by the latest initiatives of President Nazarbayev, including the provision of platform for settling the Ukrainian crisis, and the scheduled this year's global exhibition on renewable energy, Kazakhstan is the most active to this end. What do You think?
Each of these members would contribute to the UN activities in different ways. It seems many of the diplomats that are appointed by the UN in discharging of its mission are Italian. Swedes have a history of conflict resolution and peace research, they offer peacekeeping forces and are generally respected for their impartiality and neutrality. If your question is limited to which member would be influential in the SC, I would say Italians and Swedes. Their power is also buttressed by the fact that they are both EU members as is France and they may be part of a solidarity group in the UN. If, on the other hand, your question is more general, Kazakhstan would in the long run possess a greater potential for a geopolitical role in world politics as source of energy, and a strategic location on the Chinese Silk Road and as a gateway to some of the FSU countries in Central Asia. But this role is constrained by Russia that wants to be the dominant power in the region and does not want FSU countries to pursue foreign policies that are fully independent of Russia.