Academics from different universities participated in a panel organized at Thailand's Prince of Songkla University last week, elaborating Turkey's role in world politics in different perspectives. Hüseyin Bağcı, a professor at Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ), said at the panel, which was organized by the Royal Thai Embassy in Ankara, that even though European countries and the U.S. remain partners with Turkey, new foreign policy initiatives enable Ankara to enhance strong cooperation with other parts of the world to become a global player in world politics.
"When you look at the opening of Turkish foreign policy from the Middle East to Africa, from Latin America to Asia, we see that it doesn't have an ideologically restricted perspective; and the European or U.S. point of view does not dominate the Turkish way of thinking anymore," he said.
Solely focusing on developing relations with Western countries for decades and often being regarded as NATO's farthest outpost, Ankara launched foreign policy initiatives to embrace a more assertive position in global politics since the late '90s. For Central and South America, Turkey's "Action Plan for Latin America and the Caribbean" was put into effect in 1998. The plan was reviewed in 2006 and the same year was declared as the "Year of Latin America and the Caribbean" in Turkey and is considered a road map regarding the policy of opening to the region. For Africa, Turkey declared 2005 the African year and accelerated the pace of its ties with the countries in the continent.
In 2002, Turkey had only 12 embassies across the continent, the number today has increased to 42. Also, last month, Turkey introduced its new Asia initiative called "Asia Anew," in which the country laid out new goals for expanding political and economic relations with Asian countries."Turkey has always had a unique foreign policy perspective because of its geopolitical situation," Bağcı added. Speaking on Turkey's domestic policy effects on the country's course in foreign policy, Tanju Tosun, a professor at Ege University, said that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) had a unique part in the modernization of Turkish politics during its primary terms regarding the accession of the EU as it adopted many EU institutional legal frameworks into Turkish politics. However," he added, "there has been no rapid development on democratization since 2010."
In order to become an EU member, Turkey must successfully conclude negotiations on 35 policy chapters and implement some reforms. With the aim of expediting Turkey's decelerated EU process and reform efforts, the government initiated Reform Action Group (RAG) meetings last year with the participation of four ministers. Tosun also stressed that if the government manages to establish a balance between different factions of the society and insist on reforms for democratization, it will help development in not only the country's domestic politics but also international relations.
Stressing the significance of recent developments in the military industry on Turkey's ability to develop independent foreign policy, Merve Seren, an assistant professor at Ankara Yıldırım Beyazıt University, said that Washington has wielded its arms exports to tighten the reins of Turkish foreign policy for many years, and Ankara experienced negative impacts of this policy during the Cyprus intervention in 1974, when the U.S. imposed an arms embargo.
"It was the first time that Turkey realized that if it is dependent on one supplier and it doesn't have military self-sufficiency, it cannot defend itself," she said.
In recent years, Turkey took a noticeable leap forward with innovative engineering moves in the defense industry and domestically-developed military equipment and combat vehicles in almost all fields of warfare, most notably the Altay Main Battle Tank, the ATAK T-129 Tactical Attack and Reconnaissance Helicopter and the ANKA unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) as well as other air and land platforms developed by Turkey's leading private defense companies, primarily the TB2 Bayraktar.