The proactive approach of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to foreign policy making has changed traditional dynamics and taken Turkey to a totally different level of influence and power in its neighborhood over the last few years, Demir Murat Seyrek and Amanda Paul write in an article titled “Turkish foreign policy: Where to next?”
Nowadays Turkey has developed a far more independent foreign policy than hitherto. While maintaining strong links with the West, being a long time member of NATO, Ankara has begun to consider the national interests of the Turkey first and foremost which was not always the case in the past, says the article published by neurope.eu.
Turkey would probably welcome an opportunity to reopen rapprochement talks with Armenia, which collapsed last year, principally as a result of Turkey’s decision to link it to progress on the Nagorno Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan (following pressure from Baku) which was not part of the agreement negotiated between Yerevan and Ankara. Given that Erdogan has already underlined the importance of Azerbaijan for Turkey, it is unlikely he will risk upsetting Baku again. For Turkey to have a real role in the region Ankara first needs to concentrate on implementing “zero problems” within regional countries. Therefore, as long as Turkey does not normalize relations with Armenia, Ankara will be unable to have such a role, it says.
While Turkey’s new approach to foreign policy is aimed at making Turkey a significant regional player, Turkey also want to go beyond this and Turkish Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu took several initiatives in different regions of the world, over the last two years. Turkey continues to strengthen ties with Russia, Ukraine and China while also quickly moving into Africa and even South America, the article goes on.
Although there is no doubt Turkey is playing an increasingly important role in its region, Ankara needs to be careful not to spread itself too thinly by trying to be everything to everyone. Regional developments may require Turkey to focus on a few strategic issues, which may have direct consequences for Turkey and the regional balance. Furthermore, while Turkey has positioned itself as an active regional player it has not managed to solve any of the most thorny regional issues (Cyprus, Armenian issue, the Aegean issue, Iran nuclear issue, the Middle East conflict). If not final solutions, at least some concrete improvements in some of these issues will be required in order to preserve the consistency and validity of “zero problems with neighbors” and “pro-active foreign policy” approaches of AKP, it concludes.
Demir Murat Seyrek is Managing Partner of Glocal Communications; Amanda Paul is Policy Analyst for the European Policy Centre in Brussels.