BAKU: ‘Policy of zero problems with neighbors successful for Turkey’

news.az, Azerbaijan
Dec 17 2011

‘Policy of zero problems with neighbors successful for Turkey’
Sat 17 December 2011 05:29 GMT | 7:29 Local Time

News.Az interviews Sinan Ulgen is a visiting scholar at Carnegie
Europe and the chairman of the Istanbul based EDAM think tank.

How successful is a ‘zero problem with neighbors’ policy declared by
Turkish government?

The zero problems with neighbors policy was successful and helped
Turkey to enhance its regional influence. But with the onset of the
Arab spring it became unsustainable. Because zero problems with
neighbors essentially meant having zero problems with regimes. As an
influential regional player and a NATO member, Turkey could not
continue to appear to give support to authoritarian regimes at a time
of democratic upheaval. So today, for all practical purposes, this
policy is dead.

How do you see a settlement of the Turkish-Israeli crisis and how soon
it can be achieved?

Turkey’s relationship with Israel has been seriously downgraded as a
result of the Mavi Marmara incident. The Turkish government stated 3
conditions for the normalization of the relationship with Israel.
Turkey expects Israel to issue a public apology, to pay compensation
to the families of the victims and finally to lift the embargo on
Gazza.

Before the breakdown of the talks, the two sides came very close to an
agreement fulfilling the first 2 conditions. But the negotiated text
was ultimately rejected by the Netanyahu government. There is
therefore little hope for the improvement in the relationship in the
near future. The best hope is for a future government in Israel to
adopt a more conciliatory approach to mend the relationship with
Turkey.

May this crisis concern somehow Azerbaijan? Turkey supports Azerbaijan
in the Karabakh conflict. May Turkey ask Azerbaijan to restrict its
cooperation with Israel?

The downgrading of Turkey’s relations with Israel will have regional
implications. One of these implications is with regard to Turkey’s
relations with Azerbaijan. Turkish policy makers will not ask Baku to
follow the same policy of downgrading relations with Israel. But they
will make their position known to their Azeri counterparts and ask for
solidarity with the Turkish position.

And what about problems between Turkey and Iran caused after Turkish
agreement to establish American radars on its territory? Does it mean
that interests of the Turkish ally – the US – are above policy of
Muslim solidarity conducting by the PM Erdogan?

The hosting of the early warning radar of the missile defense system
on Turkish territory was a critical decision. But it was also an
unsurprising decision to the extent that Turkey is a NATO member and
this was a NATO project. Ankara did not want to find itself in the
situation of blocking singlehandedly this important initiative. In
this case, it was clear that the fundamental tenets of Turkish foreign
policy fostering Turkey’s relations with the transatlantic community
were deemed to be more important than the proclivity for Muslim
solidarity.

Do you believe in normalization of Turkish-Armenian relation in the
nearest future and what are preconditions for that?

The condition for the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations are
clear and remain the same. The protocols negotiated between Ankara and
Erivan remain on the table. But Turkey conditions the ratification of
these protocols to progress on Karabakh. In other words, unless
Azerbaijan and Armenia reach an agreement on a roadmap on Karabakh,
Turkey will not ratify the protocols and there will be no progress on
normalizing relations with Armenia.

F.H.
News.Az

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