THE FOREIGN POLICY PANORAMA
July 26 2008
Turkey’s foreign and domestic policies are going through a colorful
period nowadays. There is a process of reconstruction taking place, and
this troubled period will continue until the advent of a new balance
of power. This exhausting climate makes it very hard to perceive links
between diverging events — however, it also offers the excitement
of witnessing the establishment of the world’s new balance of power.
Since last year, Turkey has chosen to strengthen its strategic
partnership with the US, following a long period of tension caused by
the Iraq war and the US policy on northern Iraq. As a consequence of
this choice, Turkey was able to play a critical role in reintroducing
Syria to the international system, by preparing the groundwork
for Israel-Syria negotiations. The Israeli-Syrian relationship
can also contribute to a resolution of the Lebanese and Palestinian
questions. Within this context, Turkey has also developed its relations
with the Gulf states in order to widen the regional "circle of peace."
Through several high-level official visits to Baghdad, Turkey showed
that it was willing to play a role in incorporating Iraq into the
international system, and has promised to maintain peaceful relations
with northern Iraq. In other words, Turkey has become the stimulator
of the Israel-Syria-Iraq relationship. It’s also a known fact that
Turkey was backstage during the Geneva process. There, it was proposed
that Iran pursue its ties with "the West" through Turkey. Let’s hope
that this situation doesn’t harm the Turkey-Iran relationship per se.
On the other hand, Turkey recently abandoned its classic attitude on
the Cyprus issue. Turkey supports the UN-brokered initiatives aiming to
establish a "single state of two societies" model, and helps maintain
negotiations between the two sides of the island. This positive
approach was demonstrated by the opening of the LokmacÄ± gate. Despite
the domestic opposition’s pressure, which claims the island was "sold"
to the Greeks, the Turkish government has taken a great risk and has
supported Turkish Cypriot President Mehmet Ali Talat’s positions.
It appears that the current time is also the period of a turning
of relations with Armenia. There was already an effort made at
establishing dialogue, as demonstrated by the invitation of President
Abdullah Gul to Yerevan to watch a football game. It’s the first
time in many years that there is a credible chance of establishing
diplomatic relations between the two neighbors. Let’s hope for some
progress on this matter.
When the current situation is thoroughly analyzed, one can state
that Turkey has endorsed a facilitator role to help its regional
partners normalize their relations with "the West." However problems
remain concerning Turkey’s own "Westernization" efforts. Turkey is
amid a turbulent period in domestic political life and also has a
normalization problem with Europe. While several of Turkey’s neighbors
plus the US prepare conditions allowing Turkey to make an approach
toward Europe, some European countries try to limit Turkey to its
own region. In fact, the durability of the above-mentioned positive
atmosphere will only be assured if Turkey stays on the EU track.
It’s obvious that some European countries are disturbed by Turkey’s
renewed relations with its neighbors and its efforts to "carry"
them to the West. Maybe they have understood that the relations
in the Mediterranean/Black Sea/Middle East axis will be normalized
under the US’s auspices, and all this with Turkey’s contribution. If
we are not wrong, this means that these European countries still
haven’t reached a decision about Russia, the US or the EU’s political
future. Nevertheless, things are advancing very rapidly, and there is
no time for indecisiveness. Those who are still indecisive may suddenly
find themselves in a situation that necessitates urgent decisions.