COMMON HISTORY, COMMON DESTINY AND COMMON FUTURE
Oct 19 2009
With its "zero problems with neighbors" policy, Turkey’s efforts
inside the country and out are continuing at dazzling speed. I asked
a Justice and Development Party (AK Party) executive the reason why
the initiatives were introduced in such a rapid fashion with one
following the next. The executive responded, "I connect it to the
delay in overcoming the effects of the Cold War period."
Just 10 years ago, it was unimaginable for Syria and Turkey, which
were on the brink of war, to set sail toward "unlimited" friendship.
Iraq, which had become a nest of terrorism, was a country that was
far from being a friend. It is for this reason that during the US-led
invasion of Iraq, Turkey almost became a partner in crime. But by
rejecting the March 1 motion, Parliament duly represented the national
will. Now Turkey has reached a point where it is contemplating removing
restrictions against Iraq. Signing protocols with Armenia and agreeing
to open the border was previously unlikely to happen. But it has
happened. The process began not with the language of cold diplomacy
but with a warm conversation over sports. The establishment of a free
trade zone with Iran is another item that is on the agenda.
Bridges have already been built with Nakhchivan and Georgia, and
relations have improved to the highest level. However, my same friend
said, "There is more distance to be traveled en route to building
friendships with neighbors."
The AK Party executive, who linked the success of these initiatives to
the escape from "deep" structures left over from the Cold War, asked,
"Could these steps have been taken if a structure that generated chaos
to create an atmosphere fit for a coup continued its activities?" The
executive noted that Turkish officials would return a visit paid by
George Papandreou, who traveled to Turkey on his fifth day in office
after being elected prime minister of Greece. The Greek leader had
shared a peace-building award with Ä°smail Cem during his tenure as
foreign minister. The senior AK Party official also said that with
the closure of the crisis chapter with Bulgaria, relations between the
two countries will be significantly improved. Foreign Minister Ahmet
Davutuoglu’s emphasis on "a common history, a common fate and a common
future" includes the message that Turkey will grow with its neighbors.
A friend of mine who is a foreign policy expert said the slogan
"A common history, a common fate and a common future" was crafted
deliberately. "For example, it’s no coincidence that there is no
reference to a common culture. We share a common culture with neighbors
with which we have a common history, but that kind of expression
would have been limiting. As for the reference to a common fate, it
encompasses everyone in the region. The emphasis on a common future
expresses that it would be easier to build a high-quality future if
it is done together. We can extend this partnership to our neighbors
that have a coast on the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. We are
evaluating every opportunity for peace and friendship, including
soccer and provocations," he added.
Asked what he meant by provocations, my friend went on to explain: "In
the first week of September 2007, Israeli jets used Turkish airspace
to attack a military building in Syria. This attempt, which could have
ruined relations with Turkey, had the complete opposite effect. The two
countries did not fall into that trap." Speaking of Israel, I asked,
"Why was the problem with Israel deepened when ‘zero problems with
neighbors’ initiatives were being launched one after the other?"
He said the exclusion of Israel from the Anatolian Eagle military
drill was a step toward solving the problem. Noting that they wanted
to help Israel face the Gaza massacre it carried out at the start of
the year, my friend said: "You are going to kill innocent people and
then act like nothing happened. Is there a more diplomatic way that
could have been used to explain that that era has now passed?"