ANKARA: A Look Behind Pursuit Of Peace On All Fronts


Turkish Daily News
July 21 2008

Turkey’s peace efforts are all seen as a brand-new wave of diplomacy
in line with Washington’s interests, as well. ‘The agendas of Turkey
and the US in our neighborhood and beyond overlap to a large extent,’
read a Foreign Ministry document summarizing four-day ambassadorial
talks here. But the sustainability of this diplomacy remains to be seen

SERKAN DEMÄ°RTAÅ~^ ANKARA – Turkish Daily News


The United States has been pressuring Turkey to open its border with
Armenia. The football World Cup qualifier between Turkey and Armenia
in September may provide the impetus for improvement.


The intractable Cyprus problem has been a foreign policy headache
for decades. The government seems committed to a settlement and is
pushing for negotiations based on an agreement reached between the
sides in March this year.


Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent visit and warm messages
sent to the northern Iraqi regional government points to the assumption
that a high-level meeting with Massoud Barzani may not be far off.


Peaceful relations between Turkey and its neighbors can be sustainable
only if relations other neighbors in the region are peaceful too. This
seems to be the leading motive for the government in taking the
initiative to aid the Syria-Israel reconciliation process and to seek
to assist in solving the Iran nuclear program crisis.

A four-day gathering of ambassadors representing Turkey worldwide
helped the government shape its short- and medium-term diplomacy
based on "seeking peace on all fronts, especially with neighbors,"
albeit its applicability remains to be seen as the ruling party risks
being disbanded.

Talks with Armenia, reunification efforts in Cyprus, rapprochement
with Iraqis including Iraqi Kurdish leaders, mediation efforts between
Israel and Syria and a facilitator role in the row over Iran’s disputed
nuclear program are all seen as part of this brand-new diplomacy,
which the United States and some European Union members openly support.

"It was reaffirmed that the agendas of Turkey and the United States
in our neighborhood and beyond overlap to a large extent and that
bilateral relations matter not only for the common interests of the two
countries but also for the promotion and maintenance of regional/global
peace, security and stability. The importance of sustaining the
momentum in the period ahead to enhance Turkish-U.S. relations in
every sphere was also emphasized," read the Foreign Ministry’s final
communiqué issued right after the ambassadors’ meeting late Friday.

In the light of this commitment, Turkey’s initiative to start talks
with Armenia, though secretly, cannot be seen as surprising. Washington
has long been pressing Turkey to open its borders with its neighbor
and resume diplomatic ties. U.S. diplomats have already begun pushing
President Abdullah Gul to visit Yerevan to watch a football match
between the national teams of the two countries early September.

Ankara’s to-do list

Another relevant move by Ankara was Prime Minister Recep Tayyip
Erdogan’s visit to Baghdad and his warm messages to the Iraqi Kurdish
regional government. Obviously, this was also on Ankara’s to-do-list,
after concentrated talks with Washington. Not surprisingly, Prime
Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan or Foreign Minister Ali Babacan will
not hesitate to meet with Massoud Barzani, president of the semi
autonomous Kurdish administration, or his Prime Minister Nachirvan
Barzani, in the short run, though problems stemming from the lack of
cooperation against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK,
still remain unsolved.

Cyprus, as soon as possible

Another major issue that has been occupying the agenda of Turkish
diplomacy for almost four decades is the Cyprus problem and endless
unification talks throughout the years. But this time, the government
seems to be committed to a settlement.

"Turkey’s support for starting, as soon as possible, comprehensive
negotiations with a view to reaching a just and lasting settlement
in Cyprus in the context of the process initiated on March 21, 2008
was reaffirmed," the communiqué stated. The EU also prefers a quick
solution to the problem, which complicates Turkey’s negotiations with
the 27-nation bloc.

Regional mediation to continue

Apart from Turkey’s own diplomatic problems, the government will also
continue to mediate between regional rivals Israel and Syria and be
involved in aiding efforts to help diffuse nuclear tension with Iran.

"In light of Turkey’s particular relationship with the parties in the
region based on mutual trust and respect, the importance of continuing
active policies in the region toward achieving peace were emphasized,"
the communiqué said, supporting this view.

Sustainability of the diplomacy

But, there is a very important problem in maintaining the
sustainability of this diplomacy: How will Turkey’s foreign policy be
affected by a possible closure of the ruling Justice and Development
Party, or AKP, by the country’s top Constitutional Court?

All diplomats, foreign and Turkish, have the same question on their
minds. "It will surely have an effect on foreign policy. But it is
very hard to predict its magnitude from now," a Turkish diplomat
attending the ambassadors’ meeting told the Turkish Daily News on
condition of anonymity.

A foreign diplomat based in Ankara said he hoped to see the Foreign
Ministry take the initiative not to lose this track even if the court
disbands the AKP. "For example, the Israeli-Syrian talks… We’re
sure diplomats will do their best to let them continue under Turkey’s
control," the same diplomat said.

The expectation in the capital is that the top court will not
delay its verdict on the case and will announce it within weeks,
possibly in early August. If the court bans Erdogan from politics,
the government will collapse, a development that will start a process
for the formation of a new one.

From: Baghdasarian