turkey's foreign policy and the middle east

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Guest lecture at Metropolitni Univerzita Praha, Prague, Czech Republic, May 14, 2014.


  • 1. Turkeys Foreign Policy and the Middle East Dr. Altay Atl Boazii University Istanbul, Turkey Metropolitan University Prague, May 14, 2014.

2. Making Sense of Turkish Foreign Policy 3. Periods in Turkish Foreign Policy 1980s and 1990s: Western oriented. Preserving the status quo. Military and civilian bureaucracy dominant. Early steps of a multi-dimensional foreign policy. Early AKP period (2002-2007): EU membership as the priority. Attempts to diversify Turkeys external relations and to improve relations with neighboring countries. Economics having a dual role in Turkeys foreign policy. Rise of new actors. Identity considerations and civilizational geo-politics. 4. Periods in Turkish Foreign Policy Later AKP period (2007-2011): EU no more the reference point. Continuation of multi-dimensional foreign policy. Zero problems with neighbors. Building strong relations with Middle Eastern countries as equal partners based on mutual economic interests and common heritage. New geographical imagination. Post-Arab Spring period (2011-present): Democracy promotion discourse. Dilemma: Economic interests vs. pro-democracy position. Overstretching of Turkeys capabilities. Increasing instability across the neighboring region. 5. Turkey and the Middle East Questions: How did Turkey respond to the developments in its neighborhood during the Arab Spring period? What are the challenges faced by Turkey in this respect? How can Turkey contribute to a more stable Middle East in the post-Arab Spring period? 6. Turkeys Response to the Arab Spring Dilemma: Taking a pro-democratic stance and discontinuing relations with autocratic regimes may jeopardize economic interests. But: An indifferent or negative attitude towards the popular movements and/or support for authoritarian regimes can undermine Turkeys image and ambitions of increasing regional influence. Response: Initial hesitation. Eventual shift towards stronger support to the regime transformation processes in Egypt and Syria. Over-engagement / despite lack of capabilities. 7. Turkeys Response to the Arab Spring Result: Economic relations weakening. Democratization not in sight in the region. Turkey over-engaged itself in Syria, contributing to further instability and undermining both its own interests and international image in the process. From zero problems with neighbors to zero neighbors without problems. 8. Turkeys Response to the Arab Spring Share of various regions in Turkeys exports (%) 2004 2012 2013 MENA 16.0 34.0 30.0 EU 58.1 39.0 41.5 Non-EU Europe 6.9 9.3 9.4 North America 8.2 4.4 4.3 Asia 4.0 6.9 7.9 Rest of the World 6.8 6.4 6.9 Source: Turkish Statistics Institute 9. The Egypt Case Initial preference: Egypt to adopt the Turkish model and become a reliable strategic partner for Turkey. Erdoans 2011 Cairo talk: Emphasis on secular constitution. Change of course after July 2012 elections in Egypt: Support for Muslim Brothers. July 2013 coup: Turkey does not recognize the new regime Turkish foreign policy emerges as one of the biggest losers. The Egypt issue causes relations with Saudi Arabia and Qatar to sour. 10. The Syria Case Initial preference: Playing a constructive role in Syrias political opening, without a regime change. Did not work. Support for opposition forces. Underestimation of the Assad regimes strength Overestimation of the oppositions capabilities and coherence. Hesitation of the international community. Refugees from Syria. Growing security risks for Turkey. The Sunni connection: Turkeys drawn into sectarian conflicts of the Middle East. Turkey has overengaged itself in Syria, overstretched its capabilities, thus contributing to increasing instability. This undermines Turkeys interests and the way it is perceived in the international arena. Can Turkey really be a model for the region in this way?? 11. The Road Ahead Turkeys foreign policy in the Middle East needs a reset: A more nuanced stance and concrete steps towards a restoration of Turkeys influence in the region. Instead of over-engagement, Turkey needs to be aware of its limitations and make efforts to increase its capabilities: economic and democratic. Turkeys economy needs to be placed on a sustainable growth track. Democratization and the establishment of rule of law are necessary and urgent. Progress with the domestic Kurdish question is absolutely vital. But: the currently growing authoritarian style of governance of the AKP and the the countrys ongoing internal struggles do not help. Revitalization of the EU anchor is crucial. 12. Dr. Altay Atl Boazii University Istanbul, Turkey altay.atli@gmail.com

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