This will be a difficult new year

Published 30.12.2014 02:01

2015 will be the year of living dangerously for Turkey. It can either turn into a successful move toward better economic and political cooperation on the international stage, or it could become a nasty quagmire of heightened domestic and international problems.

The first indication will be the situation in Greece. At the time this article is published, we will know whether the Greek parliament has been able to choose a new president, or whether there will be parliamentary elections within a month. New elections will not bode well for the already shaky political stability in Greece. On the other hand, it might be a salutary lesson for the obsolete Greek political class in the government, who thinks they can still handle a dysfunctional economy without deeply reforming public spending and a plethoric bureaucracy. Anyhow, whatever scenario might unfold in Greece, in the short run, Turkey is at risk of being seen as the scapegoat for Greek misfortune. Not that this will help Greece solve any of its problems, but this tool has served a number of Greek governments nicely before, so it is possible to see this game played once again in the short-term.

Cypriot policies and Turkish-Greek relations are closely related. If Greece has a government that really looks for closer ties with Turkey, this will affect Greek Cypriot's attitudes positively. This may look far-fetched at the moment, but long-term perspectives might reserve some (hopefully good) surprises.

The real opening will come from the East, if the "normalization" of Iran can withstand the present pace. The revolution has long gone, and Iran is tired of trying to play a regionally-dominant role while its economy is in tatters, oil prices dwindle and external trade is under embargo. The belated, but most welcome change of attitude of the U.S. toward Cuba may perhaps bode well for a minimal "reconciliation" between Iran and the U.S. Such a move will help normalise the situation in the Middle-East enormously. Turkey's recent rapprochement with Iraq and the acceptance by the Iraqi central government of the economic and commercial ties between Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan are a direct continuation of the dynamics in play in Iran, domestically and internationally. The most economic natural gas drilling in the world can be performed both in northern Iraq and Iran. The extent of the reserves is currently unknown due to insufficient prospecting, but they are believed to be extremely rich. Such a situation will render both Iran and Iraq most dependent on regional cooperation, the direct benefit of which will be increased revenues and the perspective of peace in that unhappy region of the world.

It goes without saying that this analysis remains a best-case scenario; there are a number of powerful regional or international actors (namely the Saudis and Russians), who will not like to see only Iran, Turkey and Iraq benefiting from stability. Syria is in a state of total break-down, and without a semblance of stability in this country, the region can hardly normalize. Therefore, Russia will also play a pivotal role, and Turkey and Iran may not get a blank check from the latter for a solution in Syria immediately; however there will be a fertile ground for negotiations.

Will there be too much weight on Turkish diplomacy's shoulders? Definitely, especially taking into consideration the fact that Russia may want to exploit its relations with Turkey in its conflict with the U.S. and EU. However, Turkey's domestic dynamics are conflicting, and despite the arduous nature of the task, a success story is badly needed in external relations for the government.

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