MIDDLE EAST AND ARAB SPRING IN TURKISH FOREIGN POLICY: A DETAILED ANALYSIS

Preamble

Turkey’s relations with the Middle Eastern countries remained minimal and security oriented up until 1980s. Only with Özal, Turkey started to discover potential economic benefits of trade relations. Some years back, Turkey dramatically changed its policy toward the region. Turkish leaders believe that the country has gathered enough economic and political power to play for a leadership role in the region. With the liberating effect of the end of the Cold War, the Middle East is perceived to be full of economic and political opportunities. Turkey must seek for new markets and attract foreign investment; especially oil rich regional countries are becoming important partners.

Ankara’s response to the turmoil in the Middle East However, lends itself to several conclusions. First, it shook the policy of “zero problems with neighbors” to its core. The refugees pouring across the Turkish border, fleeing Assad’s crackdown, triggered an inevitable test of the Davutoğlu doctrine. Ankara proved unable to use its clout with the Assad regime to affect any significant change. Moreover, its growing criticism of Assad led to deterioration in Turkish-Iranian ties: Official Iranian media outlets have openly criticized Ankara’s stance on Syria since June 2011, hinting that it was doing the West’s bidding in the region. The Turkish government’s decision in the fall of 2011 to accept the stationing of U.S. missile defense systems was very much linked to these new tensions with Tehran while also in all likelihood an attempt to ingratiate itself with Washington and reduce the impact of its increasingly harsh anti-Israeli policies.

Similarly, Davutoğlu’s “zero problem with neighbors” policy was always predicated on the unrealistic assumption that none of Turkey’s neighbors had any interests or intentions that ran counter to those of Ankara while neglecting the difference between the regimes and peoples of Turkey’s neighbors. Likewise, the alienation of Israel was based on the equally unrealistic assumption that Turkey would never need the friendship of either Israel or its allies in Washington. But mostly, perhaps, these policies have been based on the notion that the United States and the West need Turkey more than Turkey needs the West. This might make sense if Ankara is growing economically while the West is in the throes of crisis, but it might well prove a dangerous assumption given the risk that Turkey’s economy could enter a crisis of its own in the not too distant future.

Moreover, the AKP government had grossly overestimated its influence in the Middle East. Erdoğan’s hard line on Israel and Turkish government support for oppositions in the Arab spring has indeed made him a darling of the Arab street, and the AKP government spent significant efforts building trade relations across the region. While Ankara peddled its clout in the Middle East as a key reason for the West to be supportive of its decisions, the events of 2011 suggest that at least for now its rhetoric has not been matched by actual influence. Erdoğan’s visit to Egypt in September 2011, when the Muslim Brotherhood appeared unwilling to adopt his suggestion that they emulate Turkey’s political system, is a case in point. This is not to say that Turkey is not a rising power, rather that the country’s leadership has been unable to realistically gauge its true level of influence. Indeed, building regional influence of the type to which Turkey aspires is a process that takes place gradually and incrementally over decades and not as an immediate result of the hyperactivity of Davutoğlu’s diplomacy

According to Davutoğlu’s intellectual framework, Turkey’s new foreign policy approach should be based on the following five principles: 1) There should be ‘a balance between security and democracy’ in Turkey. Its political regime must be legitimate; otherwise it will not have an influence in its region. 2) Turkey should have a ‘zero problems with neighbors’ policy. Its relations with its neighbors should be and is on the right track (in comparison to policies of the previous governments). 3) Turkey should ‘develop relations with the neighboring regions and beyond’. 4) It should pursue ‘a multi-dimensional foreign policy’. Its relations with global actors (such as the U.S., NATO, the EU, Russia, China) should be complementary, not competitive. 5) Turkey should conduct a rhythmic diplomacy (serious, sustained and always active). This new policy influenced by factors at every unit of analysis: cognitive map of the individuals, domestic political factors, orientations of other regional countries, extra-regional powers and the factors at the systemic level.

Therefore, the recent ‘transformation’ of TFP has more to do with the changes in the foreign policy decision making processes, diversification of area of interests and issues, normalization of foreign policy perspectives, and democratization in Turkey than an ideological re-configuration, de-Westernization, or ‘Middle Easternization’ of Turkish foreign policy. Turkey has been trying to establish mutually beneficial relations with Brazil, Russia and Iran, too, which were not part of the Ottoman geography. Therefore, AKP members openly argue that, contrary to recent changes, Turkey’s foreign policymakers are not seeking to revive the Ottoman Empire. Instead, ‘we seek Turkey’s historic reintegration into its immediate neighbourhoods, thereby correcting an anomaly of the Cold War years’… ‘we aim to deepen our political dialogue, increase our trade, and multiply our people-to-people contacts with our neighbours in the form of sports, tourism, and cultural activities’. Such a re-integration would also benefit the European Union and our other Western, NATO allies. None of them, therefore, should express discomfort with Turkey’s new policies. The AKP elite frequently argue that historical and geographical imperatives force Turkey to adopt proactive policies and assume a leadership role.

Therefore, the Middle East is currently the most suitable area for Turkey to implement a successful foreign policy based upon its new parameters. According to Davutoğlu, Turkey’s position in the Middle East must rest on four main principles: security for everyone; priority for dialogue as a means of solving crises; economic interdependence as ‘order in the Middle East cannot be achieved in an atmosphere of isolated economies’ and cultural coexistence and plurality.

According to Erdoğan, the destinies in the region are intertwined. Turkey claimed to pursue positive neutrality in the region as Davutoğlu argued, ‘Turkey is neither pro-Israeli nor pro-Syrian: it seeks an Israeli-Syrian accommodation in order to add another building block to regional stability’. However, in practice, Turkey shifted toward the weaker Muslim actors in the region so far. A more liberal border regime with Syria, Lebanon and Jordan has been set up by lifting visas, facilitating easier trade. Turkey actively seeks to cooperate with regional countries in multiple areas including banking and telecommunications. The Turkish government became more active in regional and other multilateral institutions. A Turkish scholar, E. İhsanoğlu, has become the general secretary of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) in 2004 and Turkey gained the observer status in the Arab League.

The AKP argues that Turkey is a central not a frontier or bridge country. The new foreign policy towards the Middle East emphasized upon economy and civilizational ties rather than security concerns. This makes sense of, as Turkey does not have adequate military power to shape the region. Turkey, having learned from the European experience, tries actively to fashion a region where the actors tied to others with a web of relations.

The success and influence of Turkey’s foreign policy towards the region depend upon many internal and external factors. Further democratization will require Turkish governments to pursue an effective regional policy. It might be an interesting twist of history that it currently burdens a conservative party in Turkey to provide reconciliation among the different sections (Turks-Kurds, Alevis-Sunnis), further democratization and sustainable economic growth. Turkey must be successful in its internal transformation, be it with AKP or another party in power. Otherwise, it cannot continue its current pragmatic and constructive foreign policy in the Middle East.

Opportunities and challenges of Arab Spring on TFP

The Arab Spring brought both opportunities and challenges to Turkish foreign policy. Arab Spring compelled Turkey to abandon the Zero problem with neighbors approach and support democratic changes even in the countries where it had previously enjoyed good relations with the regimes in line with her Foreign Policy view point of ‘promoting democracy at home and democracy in the world’. However, some are of the view that Arab Spring did not change the AKP’s Multi-dimensional and active regional policy based on the strategic depth doctrine and usage of Turkey’s soft powers stemming from its geopolitical locations, but how this policy is implemented in the region has changed.

At the other hand, if Turkey/ISIS and the coalition forces (NATO) eventually succeeded in overthrowing Assad regime, Iran will lose her key ally in the region and this will relatively isolate her while in turn, the new government that will be form in Syria will become Turkey’s ally even due to the role Turkey played. This will more or less, add to Turkish regional hegemony.

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TURKEY-AFRICA RELATIONS: AN IN-DEPTH ANALYSIS

The relationship between turkey and Africa is rooted in history. Their social and cultural relations predate the founding of the Turkish republic in 1923 and can be traced back to the predecessor, the Ottoman Empire. At its height, the empire encompassed large part of North Africa. By the late nineteenth century, and rather belatedly, through the Mamluk dynasty in Egypt, the ottomans were already finding their way into Sudan in the shape of the Anglo-Egyptian relationships. Westwards, it had already insinuated itself into some areas of West Africa. Where it had not established its physical presence in military or bureaucratic form, it had established diplomatic and political contact like in the case of the Sultanate of Zanzibar. Historically, Egypt Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria and Ethiopia were all said to be provinces of the Ottoman Empire which were cut off as they were split between United Kingdom, France and Italy.

Formal relations between turkey and African countries

Formal relations between turkey and African countries are established at consular and embassy levels. Turkey recognized all the new African states which gained their independence in the 1960s and established diplomatic relations with those countries.

Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs described Turkey-Africa Relation to have constitutes one of the prime orientations of Turkish foreign policy. And added that being an Afro-Eurasian state, Turkey’s policy of opening up to Africa is not just the reflection of a transient political and economic expectation, it is the product of a process with strong historical and cultural aspects. It is, foremost, the expression and natural result of the firm feelings of friendship and partnership between Turkish and African peoples.

High level visits

Turkey has been advancing to renew relations with the African states and high level state visits have been taking place between the African countries of which includes: On March 2005, Turkish prime minister Racep Tayyip Erdogan paid a three days official visit to south Africa. In March 2005 Erdogan also visited Tunisia and another visit in same year to Morocco. In 2003 Jacob Zuma the South African deputy president paid a three days official visit to turkey. In March 2003 President Ahmet Necdet Sezer visited Tunisia. In June 2000 Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo paid an official visit to turkey. In April 2001 the then Turkish foreign minister Abdullah Gul visited Algeria.

Turkey is making a great advance in African relations in recent years. The high level visits from both directions and the establishment of joint economic cooperation in order to promote trade and economic activities with the African countries have provided structures in the relations between turkey and the African countries.

The International Turkish-African summits

Turkish and African relations were observed for the first time at an international summit that was organized by TASAM in Istanbul Turkey from 23rd to 24th November 2005. At the congress, Turkey declared 2005 to be “year of expansion into Africa”. The goals of the 1st international summit were (a) to improve economic, social, cultural and political relations between turkey and African states (b) to suggest possible solutions on the existing problems in African and (c) to make decision on how to regulate the relations between turkey and African states.

The second International Turkish-African Congress was also held from 12th to 14th December 2006. The aim of that congress was to analyze the issues that are related to economic cooperation, development aid, and to provide necessary information for a closer cooperation. At that congress, about 30 African countries, 550 businessmen, ministers and senior bureaucrats participated. Similarly, about 1300 Turkish businessmen attended. The significance of the summit is that both parties were well represented. The summit which was organized by the Turkish confederation of businessmen and industrialists (TUSKON) offered an opportunity to bargain and strike business between Turkish and African businessmen. Considerable steps were taken in the summit negotiations as trade agreements were signed between Turkish and African businessmen.

This was followed by another Turkish-African International congress which was organized by the Turkish Asian Center for Strategic Studies (TACSS) and it was held in Istanbul on 4th December 2007. The summit provided a ground for improving cooperation between turkey and African countries. It was the outcome of this summit that a TIKA coordination office was opened at Addis Ababa Ethiopia and this was followed by the establishment of TIKA offices in Sudan and Senegal. More than 60 ministers and government officials as well as 500 businessmen from 40 African states including South Africa participated in the summit. They met and network with approximately 1500 Turkish entrepreneurs.

The fourth International Turkey-Africa summit which was organized by the Turkish Confederation of businessmen and Industrialists (TUSKON) also took place in Istanbul in 2008 affected the participation of more than 3500 African and Turkish businessmen from 45 countries

African Perspectives Towards Turkey-African Relations

African perspectives on Turkey were inspired by the then Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 2 March, 2005. His visit marked Turkey’s renewal of her relationships with the African countries. During his visit to Ethiopia, the prime minister assured the Africa countries that Turkey would always stand by her African friends. His visit signified positive attempts in pursuit of a Turkish and African common vision for promoting peace, stability and prosperity in Africa. African perspectives toward Turkey also depend on the New Partnership for Africa’s Development’s (NEPAD) strategies. NEPAD was created in Abuja, Nigeria, in 2001, and its goals are based on “The New African Initiative.” It is a framework for a global partnership which is based on development, security and stability in Africa. The role that Turkey plays in the United Nations (UN) is in accordance with the NEPAD charter in conflict prevention, management, resolution, maintenance of regional peace and stability. Turkey is recognized by the Africa countries as one of the main players in peacekeeping operations in the UN.

The political dimensions of Turkey’s focus on Africa

In 1998 the Turkish “Opening to Africa Action Plan” was officially announced, which was specifically aimed at improving the political, economic, development, and cultural relations between Turkey and African countries. Its goals included increasing the number of Turkish diplomatic missions in Africa and high-level diplomatic exchanges with the continent, increasing humanitarian and development aid (including Turkey’s potential membership of the Africa Ex-Im Bank), encouraging business trips, and becoming a donor to the African Development Bank.

Turkey’s Africa policy is driven by a long-term orientation of Turkey in international politics and can be understood within this context. Turkey seems to be following a foreign policy that may eventually lead in diversifying its economic allies. Turkey’s opening to Africa is a result of both Turkey’s domestic transformation and change in the global political economy. Turkey’s domestic transformation has challenged traditional Turkish partners in the economy and aimed at diversifying its trade alternatives in line with change in the global political economy power configuration. Change in the international system leads countries to define their own interest in a newly emerging system. Turkey’s response to such changes has been to define a multidimensional foreign policy, and develop economic and political relations with not only immediate neighbors, but also with other regions and continents. Turkey’s opening to Africa is part and parcel of this new redefinition of Turkish foreign policy.

In a broader perspective, while the emerging multidimensional Turkish foreign policy has provided the theoretical basis of opening to Africa, increased Turkish involvement in Africa at political and economic levels represents a smooth convergence of both governmental and business policies. It is interesting to note here that after the global economic crisis in 2009, Turkey’s opening to Africa has gained more importance in terms of opening up new markets as a way to decrease the influence of the global economic meltdown. Turkey´s growing involvement in Africa is likely to continue in the near future, as it now has a solid economic and social base to support it at home. However, it is pertinent to stress that the relationship between Turkey and Africa will only be sustained if it is based on mutual partnership but not exploitative.

TERRORISM IN TURKEY’S FOREIGN POLICY: AN OVERVIEW

It is difficult to define terrorism because one man’s terrorism is another man’s freedom fighter. However, the Word “Terrorism” has been defined by FBI as “The unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilians population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives. While at the other hand, International Terrorism is terrorism conducted with the support of a foreign government or organizations and or directed against foreign nationals, institutions or governments.

Terrorism is both complex and emotive. It is complex because it combines so many different aspects of human experience including subjects such as politics, psychology, philosophy, military strategy, and history to name a few. Terrorism is also emotive both because experiences of terrorist acts arouse tremendous feeling and because those who see terrorists as justified often have strong feelings concerning the rightness of the use of violence. Without a doubt, terrorism evokes strong feeling whenever it is discussed. A key challenge of understanding terrorism is both acknowledging the moral outrage at terrorist act while at the same time trying to understand the rationale behind terrorism.

It is impossible to say for sure what causes terrorism. Indeed, terrorism may occur for psychological, ideological, and strategic grounds all at once. Terrorism is not unique to 20th and 21st centuries. Terrorism existed since 18th century revolutionary France during the reign of terror as well as among zealots of Palestine in opposition to Roman rule some 2000 years ago.

Terrorists Groups Identified by Turkey’s Government

Turkey has had its perception on terrorist organizations and thus tagged these groups as terrorist organizations: the PKK, Al-Qaida, Hezbollah, DHKPC, ASALA and others such as 17th Nov. IBDA-C etc. The most popular among these groups in Turkey is the PKK, (Kurdish Worker’s Party) which was founded in 1974. It is Marxist Leninist organization composed of Turkish Kurds. It operates in Turkey and Europe, targeting Europeans, Turks, rival kurds, and supporters of the Turkish government.

Turkey’s geo-strategic position has had a major impact on the way in which the question of Turkey’s relationship with terrorism is viewed. Turkey has been considered by some to be a transit country for terrorist and as a base for those planning terrorist operations elsewhere. Despite the pact that Turkey has had it is own share of terrorist attacks, it has been noted that Turkey is often viewed by some terrorist organizations as a relatively safe haven for holding meetings and arranging money transfer. More to the point, it is also seen as providing a route for extremist to enter Europe and from Europe to Middle East considering that her borders in the east are relatively permeable and in the west it neighbors the Greek island , which are seen as providing a range of opportunities for entry into the EU. This makes Turkey assumed a more significant role in recent years in fighting terrorism.

Effects of Regional Terrorism on Turkish Foreign Policy

Turkey’s experience with its neighbors shows the importance of regional cooperation when countering terrorism. Turkey has managed to implement different diplomatic tools in order to persuade Iran and Syria to cooperate against terrorist groups. The diplomatic tools included confidence-building measures, Public Diplomacy, fostering economic and commercial interaction, coercive diplomacy, multilateral diplomacy as well as the use of soft power and smart power. Meanwhile, the presence of US in Iraq and Afghanistan then, afforded Turkey new opportunities to open a dialogue with Iran and Syria, providing them with a common platform on which to build new relationships. These relationships in turn help to bolster Turkey’s desire to become regional peace broker, which also helps Ankara rally support from its neighbors against a common threat such as PKK. Turkey established specific cooperation strategies within the region against terrorism and deepened the relations with economic and cultural incentives which in turn provide an irreversible path to cooperation instead of conflict.

Effects of Global Terrorism on Turkish Foreign Policy

Internationally, Turkey has redefined her relations with the International community and organizations to effectively combat terrorism which occupy a significant position in her foreign policy. This makes Turkey signed and ratified all twelve UN conventions on combating terrorism, as well as recently signed the convention for the suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism. Turkey is also contributing to the budget of the Terrorism prevention branch of the UN office for Drug Control (UNODC) and Crime Prevention in Vienna, as well as conducting efforts within NATO, whether acting as chair of the Working Groups on the financial aspects of terrorism or hosting the NATO Centre of Excellence on Defense against Terrorism in Ankara.

Similarly, Turkey sees particular value in bilateral engagements and has concluded bilateral cooperation agreements with seventy two countries. These agreements provide legal frame works for intelligence sharing, police cooperation, NATO linked Academic Outreach and Centers, and the new Multinational Countering Violent Extremist (CVE) effort and the Global Counterterrorism Forum (CGTF) co-chaired by Turkey and US.

TURKEY-US RELATIONS: IS IT REALLY STRAINED?

The US and Turkey mutually recognized each other in 1830. The initial and formal act of diplomatic engagement started by recognition between the then Ottoman Empire and the US both long established states. It occurred on 11th February 1830 when US negotiating team comprised of Captain James Biddle, David Offley and Charles Rhind presented their credentials to the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Then Ottoman Empire). They negotiated a treaty of navigation and commerce between US and Turkey. The diplomatic relations continued up to the time of World War I on 20th April 1917. After the World War I, Ottoman Empire dissolved and in its place emerged the modern state of Turkey with which the United State reestablished relations in 1927.

The Diplomatic Relations and the American Legation at Constantinople (Istanbul) were established on 13th September 1831 when David Porter presented his credentials as Charge d’Affairs. The American Legation was elevated to Embassy status on 18th June 1906 when John G.A. Leishman presented his credentials as the Ambassador on 5th October, 1906.

Flows of Diplomatic Relations

Turkey severed diplomatic relations with the US on 20th April 1917 after the US declared war against Germany on 4th April, 1917. The relationship was reestablished in 1927 on 17th December after exchange of notes in Angora, Turkey.

Since then, relations between the duo has been going through both challenges and opportunities. Prime Minister Erdogan (Now President) in a Television interview late July last year confesses communication strained between US and Turkey. He alleged that US president Barack Obama has been hindering directed communication between the two leaders for some time. He added that in the past they held frequent phone conversation directly over foreign policy issues especially during the early days of the Arab Spring. But because I can’t get the expected result in Syria, our foreign ministers are now talking to each other.

Another issue that hampered US-Turkey relations is the position of US on Israel as Erdogan in July last year during an interview with TGRT accused Israel of committing genocide on the Palestinian people after Israel army launched a ground operation in Gaza and called the country a threat to international peace. He also criticized US president Barack Obama’s statement that Israel has the right to self-defense. Erdogan added that they always curse Adolf Hitler but they (Israel) now even exceed him in barbarism. His statements were described as offensive and wrong by Spokesperson of the State Department, Jan Psaki.

Another point of conflict between US and Turkey is the freedom of the press. In December, 2014, US condemn the detention of over two dozen media figures. The US state Department said Washington was closely following reports of the raids and arrests on journalists. The States Department spokesperson added that media freedom, due process and judicial independency are key elements in every healthy democracy and are enshrined in the Turkish constitution and that as Turkey’s friend and ally, we urge the Turkish authority to ensure their actions do not violate these core values and Turkey’s own democratic foundations, as reported by Good Morning Turkey of 15th Dec, 2014.

Similarly, US urge Turkey Government to restore access to twitter and you tube and ensure free access to all social media platforms. This came after authority’s brief shutdown of twitter and Facebook and YouTube early last month. The state Department said that US supports freedom of expression in Turkey and opposes any action that encroaches on the right of free speech and that an independent and unfettered media is an essential element of democratic open societies.

However, the relationship has improved more recently with the representatives of the Governments of US and Turkey in the 11th US-Turkey Economic Partnership Commission (EPC) meeting on February this year. More importantly, on March 26 US President Barack Obama spoke with Turkish President Erdogan about pressing issues in the Middle East including the crisis in Yemen. The white house said the leaders also discussed US-led negotiations over Iran nuclear program. The statement issued by the white house about the call also added that Obama and Erdogan discussed their cooperation in fighting Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants and common efforts to bring security and stability to Iraq and Syria. The two leaders also review the train-and-equip program for vetted members of the moderate Syrian opposition. They discussed efforts to deepen cooperation to stem the flow of foreign fighters. President Obama also expressed appreciation for Turkey’s continuing support to nearly two million refugees from Iraq and Syria. And they equally discussed the crisis in Ukraine as reported by Good Morning Turkey on 27th March.

All the above analysis goes to show that despite the fact that there are some points of differences between the two countries, particularly on the issue of Israel/Palestine and freedom of the press, the US-Turkey relationship is still cordial. US referred Turkey as her friend and ally and every US intervention in the Middle East will not fully succeed without the cooperation of Turkey considering her position in the region. The US also noted that to contain ISIS & ISIL and to address Syrian, Yemen and other crisis in the region, Turkey is much more needed. However, for more cordial relationship, the two countries should ensure a mutual respect for each other’s interest and ensure the recognition and management of inevitable differences between Washington and Ankara.

TURKEY-EU RELATIONS: THE INSIDE STORY

Turkey-EU relations was initiated in 1963 with signing of the popular Ankara agreement between Turkey and European Economic Commission aimed at bringing Turkey into a custom union with the European Economic omission and to eventual membership. The agreement outlined three states for Turkey-EU integration which include the preparatory stage, transitional stage and final stage. Turkey officially filed her candidacy for EU membership in 1999 but the accession stalks started in 2005.

The EU established a custom union with turkey in 1995. The scope of the custom union covers Trade in manufactured products between turkey and EU and also entails alignment by turkey with certain EU policies such as technical regulation of products, competition and intellectual property law.

The relationship between Turkey and EU has undergone through various hurdles. The main issue now is opening the chapters as contained in the custom union and until Turkey agrees to apply the  Additional Protocol  of the Ankara Association Agreement to Cyprus, eight negotiation chapters will not be opened and no chapter will be provisionally closed.

However, the current Chairman of the European parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs, Elmar Brok was reported by Daily Sabah to have said that EU will start discussions on opening new Turkish chapter. He stated this during a talk with president Erdogan at Ankara this month. Brok said that they were currently waiting for the progress report about whether or not to open the 17th chapter concerning the economy and monetary policies. He added that the decision will be made in May this year.

In a related development, European Union Affairs Minister and Chief Negotiator to Turkey Volkan Bozkir stated that turkey is set to join EU in two years. Bozkir stated this in January during his official visit to Spain’s capital, Madrid. He expressed that Turkey will have all the chapters closed in two years’ time. He added that “there cannot be European Collective Security system without Turkey” and that EU cannot overcome security challenges without intelligence sharing and cooperation with Turkey.

Additionally, Bozkir at different event titled “Turkey in Europe: Opportunities and Challenges” held at Paasikivi Society in Helskinki this March said that stronger ties with turkey key to solve EU’s challenges. He stated that the robust relationship between turkey and EU would be an important factor in overcoming EU challenges ranging from counter terrorism to energy security, from economic to climate change.

Turkey also has some friends in the EU who support her membership among which is Finland who played a significant role in turkey EU accession. The Finnish Ambassador to turkey this month expressed that Turkey’s accession would enrich the EU culturally, economically and politically. He added that the city of Helsinki remains associated in the EU’s collective memory by granting of candidate status to turkey in 1999 and since then, Finland has been one of the vocal and strong supporters of turkey’s EU membership.

Likewise, Portugal Prime Minister Passos Coelho stressed the need to enable Turkey’s accession to EU. He stated this at a Joint Press Conference with his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu held at the Portugal Foreign Ministry office Lisbon as reported this month by Anadolu Agency. He added that Turkey must no longer be a country that has a symbolic say in the EU family photos but assume a position actually in the EU family.

In another development, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Turkey expect visa-free travel for EU within three years. He urged the EU to remove the “double standard” that has been implemented against turkey in relation to visa-free travel among EU member countries. His position was substantiated by the Head of EU delegation to Turkey, Stefano Manservis who expressed that both EU and Turkey will benefit if Turkish citizens are allowed visa-free travel to the 28-nation bloc.

The support for Turkey-EU accession within Turks still remains positive. According to 2014 Transatlantic Trends Survey by the German Marshall Fund of the United State, 53% of Turkish public believed that EU membership would be a good thing. The percentage has increased as against 45% in 2013. Equally, the current Turkish government is seemingly interested in advancing the EU-Turkey relationship.

Relations between Ankara and Brussels are about more than Turkey’s potential accession to the European Union. The relationship is diversified, but it needs to be deepened and modernized. While Turkey’s EU membership vocation should be maintained, Ankara and Brussels should take steps to update their partnership and vastly improve cooperation on current challenges that are of vital importance for both.

TURKEY RELATIONS WITH INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS (IMF/WORLD)

Toward the end of the Second World War II in July 1944, representatives of the United States, Great Britain, France, Russia, and 40 other countries met at Bretton Woods, a resort in New Hampshire to lay the foundation for the post-war international financial order. Such a new system they hoped would prevent another worldwide economic cataclysm like the Great Depression that had destabilized Europe and the United States in the 1930s and had contributed to the rise of Fascism and the war. Therefore the United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference, as the Bretton Woods conference was officially called, created the International Monetary Fund (the IMF) and the World Bank.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is today an organization of 188 countries, working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth and reduce poverty around the world. While on the other hand, The World Bank is a United Nations International Financial Institution that provides loans to developing countries for capital Programmes. The World Bank is a component of the World Bank Group, and a member of the United Nations Development Group. The World Bank’s official goal is the reduction of poverty. According to its Articles of Agreement, all its decisions must be guided by a commitment to the promotion of foreign investment and international trade and to the facilitation of capital investment.

Turkey is one of the largest middle-income partners of the World Bank Group (WBG).  With a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $786 billion, Turkey is the 18th largest economy in the world. However, her economy is now deteriorating with Turkish Lira recording a fall to about 2.57 to USD this March as against 2.6 in February.

Turkey Membership

Turkey became member of IMF in 1947 with a present contribution of 1.45 million SDR (Special Drawing Right) which represent 0.61 percent of total contribution of the Fund. Turkey benefitted from the fund with signing 19 stand-by agreements since membership between 1961 to May 2008 worth about 50 million USD. However, the money so disbursed to Turkey did not yield any positive impact in her Economy. This was attributed by economy experts to the series of transitions undergone by Turkish polity and general economic policies almost throughout her membership with the fund.

Despite the fact that Turkey has not sign a new stand-by agreement with the Fund after paying off the debt it signed in 2008 last year which was her last debt, that does not mean that Turkey – IMF relations have come to an end. In fact, the World Bank Group pledged to continues to support the government of Turkey in achieving its development goals through the implementation of a program that is highly focused on results, through lending and the provision of technical advisory services. Strategic areas of engagement include private sector development, public finances, energy, climate change, health, education, environmental management and municipal services.

IMF/World Bank and TFP

The IMP Structural Adjustment Programmes and World Bank credits affects the direction of Turkish Foreign Policy to some extent because some critics are of the view that the current limitations and dilemmas of Turkish Foreign Policy resulted from the many structural problems of the Turkish economy which are deeply rooted in the policies implemented under successive IMF/Worlds Bank-led structural adjustment programmes (Beiza C. Tekin and R. Baris Tekin: 2015).

While also, the IMF and World bank-led neoliberal reform and structural adjustment programmes continued almost incessantly from 1980 to the end of 19th century (and last) Turkey-IMF stand-by agreement on the 10th of May 2008. Moreover, Turkey is one of the few developing countries which has remained almost continuously under the influence of neoliberal policy prescriptions of the International Financial Institutions. This continuity and the resilience of neoliberal economic policies are among the primary factors which limited not only the economic and development policy space in turkey but also and equally importantly, the conduct of Turkish Foreign Policy. The highly narrow economic and development policy space of the state in Turkey is a major factor shaping Turkish Foreign Policy making and implementation. This is due to the fact that Turkey ties her foreign policy towards Middle East and Africa in particular with economic incentives and or financial aid. As such, IMF/World policies affect the generosity aspect of Turkish Foreign Policy towards African countries and Middle East.

TURKEY – CYPRUS RELATIONSHIP: THE JOURNEY SO FAR

Cyprus has been under the rule of Ottoman Empire for more than 300 years after which it was annexed by Britain in 1925. The annexation did not go down well with Greek Cypriots who embarked on a guerilla war against British rule in 1955. However, after reaching an agreement on a constitution between Greek and Turkish communities, Cyprus gain her independence in 1960 with Archbishop Makarious becoming the first President. This agreement gives Britain, Greek and Turkey the right to intervene in Cyprus.

The Diplomatic Row

Relationship between the two countries has first gone sour in 1963 when Makarious raises Turkish fears by proposing constitutional changes which would abrogate power-sharing arrangements which lead to inter-communal violence in the island. Since then, the journey has never been the same. The violence resulted to the intervention of United Nation who sent its forces for peace keeping mission.

Cyprus was divided in 1974 as a result of Turkish invasion in the northern part of Cyprus which was in a response to a military coup backed by Greek government on the island. The partitioning gets the northern third in habituated by Turkish Cypriots and the southern two-thirds by Greek Cypriots. Turkey had Refuses to withdraw its troops from Cyprus despite repeated United Nation Security Council resolutions requesting her to do so, up to 1983 when the Turkish-held area declared itself, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) which was only recognized by Turkey as a separate entity.

The Mediations

Mediations between two sides of the island began with United Nations sponsored peace talk in 1980 and other subsequent peace meetings in 1985, 1989, 1992 and 1997. In 2002 UN sponsored another negotiation between two sides with concentration for EU membership aspiration with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan presenting a comprehensive peace plan for Cyprus which envisages a federation with two constituent parts, presided over by a rotating presidency. This plan also did not succeed. Other series of talks were also held in 2005, 2006, 2008 – 2010 and recently in 2014 Cyprus suspend the peace talk with Turkish-led Cyprus in protest against what it says effort by Turkey to prevent it from exploring gas field in the south of the island with EU and US expressing concern over the tension.

Prospect In the Relationship

In view of the foregoing, the concern here is when and how the two countries will come together and reach an agreement on their differences which will in turn lead to Cyprus unification?

From the recent happenings, it is still uncertain if anything positive will be achieved in near future taking into account that this January, Greek Cyprus warns Turkey to stop what it called “bullying” over gas. This follows Turkey’s opposition to an offshore energy search by the globally recognized Greek Cyprus government for what Turkey held that the energy search ignores the rights of Turkish Cypriots.

Similarly, Anadolu Agency had reported this month that Greek Defense Minister Kammenos said that Cyprus problem remains a subject of “invasion and occupation” for the Greek government. He criticized the presence of the Turkish Seismic Vessel Barbaros in the exclusive economic zone in the eastern Mediterranean, calling it a “provocative”. In reaction, Turkish Foreign Ministry described the statement as unacceptable and raising the tensions in the Aegean.

Moreover, US Ambassador to Greek Cyprus John Koenig described reconciliation in Cyprus as distant. Koenig stated this in February in an opening speech at the panel organized by the Center for Sustainable Peace and Democratic Development titled “ Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots are Growing Apart: Is it Time to Step Out of The Comfort Zone?” held at Nicosia. During the panel, Koenig stressed that Cyprus should make decision between the status quo and reconciliation.

All these goes to show that unless Turkey and Greek reach a substantive agreement on their differences on the island, the relationship between Turkey and Cyprus will continue to go sour and sour and the dream of having a unified Cyprus will not be realized. The Turkish and Greek Cypriots will continue to live at apart and this can be achieved through the continued United Nations peace proposals.

Musa Aliyu wrote from the Department of International Relations

Zirve University Gaziantep, Republic of Turkey