2011-09-09

Turkish foreign policy - first fails - Analytical paper

The consequences of the Arab spring can bring more shifts in the region with the worsening of the Turkish-Israeli relations. The current developments on the Middle East are perfect indicators of the defective nature of the today’s Turkish foreign policy. While cheering the innovative approaches and fresh looks of the AKP governments towards the regional issues with the rise of Turkey’s Justice and Development Party, many observers paid no or little attention to ideological and thus less pragmatic components in party’s agenda. Failures of the Turkish foreign policy in the region are therefore worth examining for better understanding of the possible tendencies in its politics in the large.

Being long time an ally of the western powers meant for Turkey stable relations with Israel, despite the hostile feelings that has been common in the region of the Middle East towards the latter. The fact that views of the Turkish governments till recent time, being under the influence of the army establishment, on the regional problems were to great extend similar to those in Israel.  The cooperation between the two continued even after the political forces with Islamist background came to power in the beginning of the 2000’s. Though, the rather close relations with Israel provided much room for maneuver in many regional problems such as counter-terrorism or in dealing with Syria on PKK terrorist activity, the Turkish government chose to sacrifice close relation to Israel for positive image among the Arabs, resulting in the degradation of the relations with once strategic partner, especially when it came to criticizing of the Israel’s military operation “Cast Lead” against Hamas in the Gaza by the Turkish leader on the Davos summit.

The current period of worsening of the relations between Turkey and Israel is somewhat a continuation of the evolution in the domestic politics: AKP’s government has got all controls over the decision-making process after it became clear that army is not capable any more of following its own line. Desecuritization process has been accepted as necessary even from outsiders, because these measures were seen as a part of country’s democratization on the whole. However good implications of this trend were and will have, it should be taken into account, that changes in Turkey were made by the political forces with Islamist background with a specific Weltanschauung  both on domestic and foreign politics.

Enjoying new state of affairs at home, AKP preferred to try implementing its agenda in the region not by a rational means, nut rather by employment ideological narratives, thus exploiting public sentiments in attempts to strengthen Turkey’s positions in the region. On the other hand, it is not a secret that Israel has yet succeeded in establishing positive image in the neighborhood societies, thus making for its allies like Turkey hard to maintain cooperative relations with the former. The end of positive trend of the Turkish-Israeli relations, especially after the Mavi Marmara case and the recent Palmer report, is not good for Turkey, mainly due to the important strategic role of Israel in the regional issues. Such gestures can be eventually interpreted by Tureky’s western partners as a change of direction from west to east and what is more important as the enhancement of the ideological elements in its foreign policy.

The stalemate in the negations over Cyprus and demonstration of the Turkish Cypriots may be seen as further indicator of the defectiveness of the Turkish foreign policy. AKP has not yet succeeded in overcoming of the problems created by the referendum and the island’s accession to the EU in 2004. The absence of real influence on the EU’s support and thus on the course of events resulted in the rise of general feeling of despair not only in Turkey but also among Turkish Cypriots, who expressed their opinion in demonstrations against Turkey, blaming it for the failure on the talks over the island’s status. That all made the change of Turkey’s position on the conflict from support of the status quo to the advocating the Annan plan useless, since army’s positions, obviously the only once rationally acting broker, were undermined severely as a result of the long-lasing trend in the country.

What is more, in regard to neighborhood Syria, that has long been one of the AKP’s achievements internationally, Turkey demonstrated the lack of genuinely strategic thinking: while criticizing Syria without undertaking any actions against its regime particularly by supporting sanctions proposed by the USA, Turkey faced internal problems in the form of terrorist activity thus indicating country’s vulnerability. Being unable to fight terrorist more active as it was in the past, due to its image of a democratic country heading to the EU, Turkey has become dependant on stability on its borders. Duality in the Turkish foreign policy, particularly its support of the regime challengers in Libya and passive stance towards Assad’s Syria or in contrast limited critique on the eve of the elections, makes it clear that Turkey’s vision of the regional developments needs to be revised to be more pragmatic and thus more effective.

To sum up, the current state of Turkey’s foreign policy and the way, who this country is dealing with the challenges, unfortunately demonstrates that defective elements or to be more precise the ineffective ideological narratives are beginning to play the leading role in country’s regional approaches. Ideological components make it impossible to cooperate with all important players in the region thus making any progress not complete. Being perceived by many as an example of the progressive Muslim political force, Turkey’s government must also demonstrate to its neighbors how to act externally basing on the rational foundation in its foreign policy.

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