Friday 26 January 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Friday. 26/1/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Upper hand? The Turkish parliament approves Sweden’s accession to Nato

Image: Getty Images


Hard bargain

Less than 48 hours after the Turkish parliament voted to ratify Sweden’s Nato membership this week, the country’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, received the first sign of his coming reward. Jeff Flake, the US ambassador to Ankara, told reporters that Washington will be ready to sign off on the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey as soon as it receives the formal ratification document. Flake’s unvarnished comments show that the US-Turkey relationship is now an openly transactional one.

Erdogan dithered over Sweden’s membership for more than a year. His motives were self-serving: he exploited a spate of Qur’an burnings in Sweden to whip up anti-Western sentiment among his conservative supporters and used his power of veto to strong-arm the US into greenlighting the fighter-jet deal. Rather than admonishing Erdogan, however, Turkey’s Western allies will reward him for eventually doing the right thing.

Over the past decade, ties between Turkey and the US – Nato’s two biggest military powers – have been dragged into the sewers, with rows over terrorism and human rights. Donald Trump’s presidency was both a high and a low in this respect. He and Erdogan recognised each other as populist loudmouths; they cyclically sparred with and sucked up to each other. The relationship veered wildly during those four years, occasionally bursting into fraught incidents in Syria, where both countries’ forces are operating.

Turkey’s neighbourhood is far more dangerous now than it was in 2016. Ankara and Washington are enmeshed in conflicts, from Ukraine to Gaza. Erdogan has come to believe that he can use foreign policy and what amounts to blackmail to get what he wants. If Trump wins in November, he will be proved right.

Hannah Lucinda Smith is Monocle’s Istanbul correspondent. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.


Society / Greece

All things equal

The Greek government has pushed ahead with prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’s plan to legalise same-sex marriage. The draft legislation will be put to a vote in mid-February, though the Greek Orthodox Church and several lawmakers from the governing New Democracy party have objected to the plan. While the bill would extend parental rights to same-sex couples, it would exclude them from having children through a surrogate mother. Stefanos Kasselakis, the first openly gay leader of the opposition party, Syriza, has voiced support for the proposal, despite arguing that it doesn’t go far enough to support parenthood rights. If the bill passes, it would be a significant step forward for Greece and a first for a majority Christian-Orthodox country.

Cut above: Muay Thai boxers Khunponnoi Sor Sommai (on left) and Nongnapa Srimongkol

Image: Getty Images

Tourism / Thailand

Packing a punch

Thailand has announced the introduction of a special visa for foreigners who want to learn Muay Thai, the country’s national sport. Tourists who have previously practised the martial art or plan to attend training camps upon arrival will be able to increase the duration of their stay to 90 days. The initiative is part of a broader push by the Thai government to encourage international tourism through cultural attractions.

The country’s prime minister, Srettha Thavisin, recently described Muay Thai as a form of soft power. He also named Thai cuisine, dance and music as other areas that the government can explore to enhance its global image. Though Thailand’s travel-dependent economy has suffered over the past few years, this focus on the nation’s strong soft-power credentials could help to get its tourism industry back on track.


Centre of excellence

Hicham Bouzid spent two years searching for the perfect premises to house Think Tanger’s new headquarters. After co-founding the non-profit cultural agency in 2016, he ran it from a former fish market in downtown Tangier, organising artist residencies alongside a programme of talks and workshops for the community. But when the organisation outgrew the site, Bouzid began looking for a larger centre of operations. He eventually stumbled upon an empty café in Tangier’s Spanish quarter and started renovating it.

The work took Bouzid and his team about a year to complete. The centre, now named Kiosk, officially opened last autumn. With the launch of an on-site café later this year, Bouzid hopes that Think Tanger will be able to draw even more of the local community. “We’re a small team so we’re moving in baby steps,” he tells Monocle. “But we have a beautiful counter ready to serve visitors from. We’re excited about putting it to good use.”

For more on Think Tanger and other agenda-setting stories, pick up a copy of Monocle’s February issue. Or subscribe today so that you never miss an issue.

Beyond the Headlines

Image: Irving Penn

Photo of the week / USA

All in a grey’s work

This image by US photographer Irving Penn, entitled “Issey Miyake Fashion: White and Black”, is part of the Morgan Library & Museum’s new exhibition Seen Together: Acquisitions in Photography, which starts today and runs until 26 May.

The showcase brings together more than 40 previously unexhibited works by notable artists and explores themes such as the body as a creative subject and artistic landscapes in the 19th century. The three Penn photographs being exhibited showcase his work in fashion, travel and food for Vogue.

Image: Getty Images

Monocle Radio / The Urbanist

St Anne’s Anglican Church, Toronto

Mandy Sinclair explores the stories behind the architecture and interiors of a Toronto church and finds out what the building means to its neighbourhood.


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