ISTANBUL – Turks in general approve of their government’s decision not to start a military retaliation against Syria, after the shooting down of a Turkish jet last Friday. In most cases the Turkish media consider the reaction of the government to be cautiously measured. Only a handful of Turks would support an armed conflict.
Prime Minister Erdogan announced on Tuesday that Syria is from now on a ‘hostile nation’, and that provocations at the border will be considered a threat to Turkey’s security. Research bureau ANAR estimates, based on opinion polls from years of earlier research, only a maximum of 5% of Turks would support a war with Syria. At the end of the week the results are expected of the latest polling of support for a military conflict.
Another poll, carried out before the incident with the plane, showed that 12% of Turks would find it a good idea if Turkey intervened in Syria to protect Syrian citizens against their President Assad. But that is quite different matter to a war directly involving both countries.
Turkey has been fighting the armed Kurdish separatist movement PKK for thirty years now. That battle still costs many soldiers’ lives, and most Turks don’t want yet another armed conflict that could take the lives of young, often conscript soldiers.
Even though the threat of a military confrontation between Turkey and Syria has not totally faded, the tourist sector isn’t worried. Spokesperson for the Association of Turkish Travel Agents, Ertugrul Karaoglu, says: ‘We haven’t seen any effect of the tensions between Turkey and Syria on tourism. Of course it all depends on how far this will escalate, but even if it turns into an armed conflict at the Syrian border, you won’t notice any of that far away on a beach in Bodrum.’
His organisation is not going to make an effort to convince potential tourists that Turkey is a safe destination. Karaoglu: ‘Because what will people think if you tell them ten times how safe it is? That there is something going on. And there isn’t.’
The only sector that is so far really bothered by the conflict is international trade. To reach trade partners south of Syria, trucks now have to go via Egypt, which increases the costs significantly. Trucks with Syrian and other Arab number plates are now taking over the loads from vehicles recognizable as Turkish, which are robbed more often, according to industry sources in English language paper Today’s Zaman.