The G20 Antalya Summit

The G20 Antalya Summit  This year’s G20 summit was held at Belek Resort in Antalya, Turkey on 15-16 November 2015. G20 leaders began to trickle into the city on Sunday morning. Obama held his final security meeting of the day at the White House meeting hall on Saturday night and then boarded AirForce-1 (AF1) in sportswear at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.

His advisers, body guards, and the White House press corps accompanied him on the 11-hour flight aboard the Boeing 747. On the flight he slept, awoke, ate breakfast, and put on his black business suit, white shirt, and plain gray necktie. AF1 touched down at Antalya international airport on Sunday morning at 6:58 a.m. The journalists, bodyguards, and advisers exited the plane first. US President Barack H. Obama walked down the stairs from AF1 onto the tarmac alone in a relaxed and sporty manner. A giant armored car approached the stairs coming down from the plane as local civilian authorities welcomed the President. A small boy and girl gave him flowers. Obama got into the vehicle with the US Ambassador to Turkey and hit the road for the G20 meeting escorted by a convoy of armored cars.

The destroyer USS Donald Cook dropped anchor in the Gulf of Antalya in wait. After the first evening’s meetings came to an end, Barack Obama could have chosen to spend the night onboard the vessel, which had also been outfitted with a Seahawk helicopter. Obama preferred to spend the night at the hotel. The following morning he took a run on the track at the hotel’s gym.

During the meetings, he removed the translation headset when he was tired of listening to the conversation that he already knows very well. He often chewed nicotine gum instead of drinking coffee or tea. On the occasions that he did drink coffee, it was brought to him by his staff.

The 2015 agenda of the G20 meeting in Antalya was very weak in the run up to the actual summit. There was not going to be much to talk about other than common global issues. Participants were not so enthusiastic to discuss the details of the Syrian Civil War, the refugee crisis, or global terrorism. The most innocuous topic was to be “Global Warming and Climate Change”.

But the night before the summit, on November 13th, terrorist attacks rocked the capital of France. The attack swiftly transformed the G20 agenda. This group of world leaders were eager to evaluate the terror attack. French President Francois Hollande cancelled his participation at the G20 meeting and sent his foreign minister to act in his stead. The other heads of the G20 countries, however, continued to land in Antalya one by one.

International terrorism, the refugee crisis, and Syria clearly dominated the top of this year’s G20 agenda, however, the details of the discussions that took place behind closed doors were not spoken about at public meetings which were open to journalists. In accordance with the principal aim of the G20, many issues of common importance were spoken about in bilateral talks between G20 leaders in secrecy.

Terror has struck everyone in the world. Last summer, the Malaysia Airlines MH17 flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was downed by Ukrainian separatists firing Russian missiles. The aircraft was carrying a large number of civilian tourists, mostly Dutch.

More recently, a Russian plane en route to Saint Petersburg from Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt exploded just after takeoff as explosives that were secretly packed in a suitcase which made it through security at the Egyptian airport were detonated. This incident can be seen as a result of lax security practices employed by the Egyptian airport baggage control staff. Afterwards, many international flights to Egypt were canceled and many nations quickly evacuated their nationals from the country. For security purposes, those evacuating the country left their luggage at the airport to be transported later on separate flights. Egyptian tourism has come to a halt, at least until Egypt receives international approval on its airport security controls.

Vladimir Putin arrived in Antalya on Sunday morning. The presidential plane that transported him was modest, medium-sized, and Russian-made. Special guest to the G20 Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev arrived in a plane that was much larger. Aliyev took his wife arm-in-arm before departure. The presidents of India and Brazil also boasted modest-sized aircrafts.

Canada’s new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (age 43) arrived with a private plane operated by the Canadian government. He received pop-star treatment at the meetings, portraying a cute, friendly image as a newcomer to world politics.

Angela Merkel and David Cameron were also present. They occupied the back rows of the G20 family photo, and sat to the side during most meetings. They didn’t mind such treatment considering that they receive ample attention elsewhere.

After breakfast and lunch on Monday, G20 leaders held bilateral meetings behind closed doors in their respective hotels. It is well known that the main objective of the G20 meeting is to organize a large number of bilateral gatherings. We do not know what is talked about during such meetings, but maybe we will learn some details in time. During the G20 meeting in Antalya, the Paris massacre was remembered and terrorism was condemned with a moment of silence for those who lost their lives in the tragedy.

During the G20 meetings, general issues of global importance were discussed. The final communique was agreed upon and released to the public. A few sentences of this document addressed “Global warming and climate change”.

During the G20 leaders’ family photo session, Vladimir Putin approached Barrack Obama to arrange a talk. Even though Obama’s program was full with prior engagements, he agreed to a short informal meeting. They met over coffee during the lunch-break at a casual corner off to the side. According to Reuters, they talked for about 30 minutes.

Obama and his national security adviser Susan Rice do not know how to speak Russian. Therefore it can be assumed that the conversation took place entirely in English. Here, Putin spoke with the help of his interpreter/adviser on developing a common attitude towards the Syrian Civil War, a potential ceasefire in the country, and ISIS.

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad has completed his tenure. Everyone agrees that there is not much difference between him staying in power or stepping down. Syria is now falling under temporary, if not permanent, Russian domination. In this casual, impromptu meeting during the lunch break, Obama was informed directly by Putin about the latest situation in Syria and Russia’s initiatives.

Obama held his final meetings with other G20 leaders on Monday. That evening at 17: 00, he held a 1-hour press conference.

Here, Obama discussed the Syrian Civil War, refugees, and the Paris terrorist attacks. We understand that US President Obama has no intention to interfere in Syrian affairs nor any other world conflict during his presidential term before the 2016 presidential elections. He maintains a long-term policy of “indifference/ignorance” towards our local political environment.

When evaluating the proceedings of the G20 meeting, it can be said that Russian President Vladimir Putin was the leader who best utilized the opportunity. He made contacts with anyone he deemed necessary, issued warnings, and informed the world’s leaders on Russia’s position. He spoke with anyone who wanted to discuss his agenda.

If we evaluate Turkey’s current situation, it can be seen that we have limited opportunities on our southern border. There is not much we can do aside from sealing our borders and implementing tighter security measures. Alternately, we can also reduce our fossil fuel imports in order to lessen unnecessary dependence on our northern neighbor.