Turkey returning to multilateral foreign policy behavior

Published 23.06.2017 23:01

In 2012, we had an intellectual conversation with İnal Batu, a prominent Turkish diplomat, on Turkey's foreign policy. Instead of adopting a militant, Jacobin approach, Batu's unprejudiced foreign policy perspective always prioritized the permanent interests of the state over the temporary interests of political parties. As far as I remember, his opinion on the ruling Justice and Development Party's (AK Party) foreign policy attitude can be summarized as follows: The political magic of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the field of foreign policy derives from his concurrent engagement with the West and the East, Europe and the Middle East. It is imperative that the [then] prime minister maintains his multilateral foreign policy attitude. However, I observe that while his engagement with the West has begun to weaken, his relations with the East continue to strengthen. If that almost magical balance between the West and the East is lost, it will be the Arab countries that will first abandon Turkey.

In the last decade, Turkey went through difficult phases in foreign policy. During the nuclear crisis that emerged between Iran and the United States, Turkey got Iran off the hook thanks to its status in the United Nations and support from Brazil. Taking the resolution of the nuclear crisis via Turkey's arbitration as a matter of pride, Iran, however, aimed to discredit Turkey's constructive foreign policy.

Regarding the long-standing tension between Syria and Israel, Turkey put forward a similar foreign policy of arbitration through the diplomatic initiatives of Ali Babacan. Thanks to Turkey's problem-solving foreign policy, Syrian-Turkish relations began to improve as a result.

Courageously working on Turkey's deep-rooted national and international problems, the ruling AK Party aimed to normalize Turkish-Armenian relations through an innovative diplomatic initiative. In a football match held between these two countries, the long-standing tensions were both measured and relieved.

Regarding the Cyprus issue, Turkey's support of the Annan Plan exposed the Greek Cypriots' irreconcilable attitude on the resolution of the problem to the observation of the European public.

Turkey's negotiation process for membership in the European Union, which was in a positive political atmosphere, came to a halt by the replacement of the policies of social democrats with those of conservatives. While political antagonism of Turkey began to rise in Europe, Turkey demonstrated its determination in the continuation of reforms by turning the criteria of the EU into the criteria of Istanbul.

Many Western diplomats appreciated Turkey's constructive foreign policy of arbitration in the chaotic political climate of the Balkans. The power of its foreign policy behavior in the Balkans stemmed from the four-century Ottoman legacy in the region.

As Turkey sincerely supported the democratization and economic development of Syria, the Syrian people were cherishing Turkish leaders such as former President Abdullah Gül and Presidnt Erdoğan, as their own political leaders.

Relying on dialogue and cooperation through the institution of the international Councils of Ministers, Turkey greatly improved its economic and political relations with Russia, Iran and many African and Latin American countries.

The goal of establishing firm economic cooperation and a common market between Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria was the product of sound political vision. Indeed, a Western political expert curiously interpreted the abolishment of visas between Turkey and Syria, an extraordinary rapprochement in the history of Syrian-Turkish relations, as a casus belli.

The Syrian civil war and former U.S. President Barrack Obama's passive policies in the region turned the Middle East into a more chaotic area. While the Middle East has been Balkanized, dictators and violence overruled the democratic demands of the people.

Today, Turkey aims at returning to its multilateral foreign policy attitude of 2012. By cooperating with Iran and Russia to resolve the Syrian crisis, maintaining relations with the U.S., balancing Iran's aggression, normalizing relations with Russia and supporting Qatar against the political and economic embargo of the Gulf countries, Turkey has already returned to its original multidimensional and multilateral foreign policy. Indeed, its geostrategic position and its historical legacy oblige Turkey to take a strong stance in its region of political influence by adopting a multilateral foreign policy attitude.

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