Turkey's Foreign Policy Agenda

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1. The Process of Accession to the EU

Building a consensus on the strategy for EU membership appears inevitable in Turkey’s leap forward in course of the vision by extricating itself from spirals of ideological and political crises. However, the executive is not the only accountable body for developing and instituting such a consensus. The charge as a common historical responsibility covers each and every organ of the state, the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TGNA), all the political parties and the whole range of NGOs. For Turkey, the goal of accession to the EU is not a romantic desire but a rational choice originating in historical consciousness and from future perspectives. 


The strategy of EU membership ought to be transformed into a process of consolidating national unity and togetherness instead of a period engendering possible fault lines in the society. Government has to remain determined to reconcile the notions such as national unity, “single state-embracing citizenship” model, and laicism with the philosophy of collective destiny of the Union and thus to build the common future with the EU on this ground.


In order to assure mutual confidence between Turkey and the EU, parties must adhere to the contractual liabilities reciprocally. Turkey has a duty to harmonize its own judicial system with the norms of the Union and to settle practices concerned in line with the EU standards, completely. The European project of integration including Turkey should exercise its influence on peace, security, economic development and democratization also within our neighborhoods as it has been doing in the continent.


The progression during the course of the process ought to be based on common ideals of peace, free will for accession, and the culture of compromise venerating the historical as well as cultural significance and diversity of Turkish identity. In this context, Turkey had better be able to stand as an active player of the European integration. The relationship between the accession process and the European Project should be built upon joint deliberation, cohesion, and understanding of combined effort rather than mutual antagonisms and attitudes of collision. Out of the relationship, it is essential to reach the goal of working together for consensual solutions instead of being against each other.


In this scope, the urgent task emerges as assessment and updating of priorities and intermediate objectives by constantly following developments in Europe and the world. For proper implementation of these priorities and intermediate objectives, establishment of an effective coordination mechanism seems crucial and a straightforward process not prone to tensions but to the ground of compromise is important. Reflecting the actual impression of the process to the people should be given primacy so that the progress is understood by the general public accurately. Therefore, contribution from all the strata of society is needed during the accession process on each step of which scientific approach ought to remain as guiding principle avoiding hasty regulations.


Turkey, as it enjoys comparative advantages for settling peace, instituting stability, ensuring energy security and transport within Central Asia, Middle East, Caucasus, Black Sea, Caspian, and Mediterranean regions, has to operate effectively involving in these policy areas. Accordingly, the occasion that positive outcomes of these policies will provide Turkey with substantial political gains in EU accession process should be considered.


One of the key explanations for the deceleration of accession process is that particular states in the EU struggle to impede the process and some of these states even present privileged partnership as an alternative formula. For that reason, full membership goal of the ongoing negotiations ought to be emphasized in every instance as the process is continued resolutely.


That Greece and the Greek Cypriot Administration of Southern Cyprus (GCASC) manipulate the actions of EU organs to Turkey’s disadvantage appears another factor affecting the relations between Turkey and the EU negatively. They have initiatives particularly on changing the questions relating to Aegean Sea and Cyprus (extension of the Treaty of Ankara and opening of the ports) into Turkey-EU disputes and designate schemes for solutions in this platform. Against these initiatives, Turkey should devise its foreign policy strategies consistent with tenets of realism, rationalism, and equality paying also attention to flexibility principle. Through such a strategy, it is necessary for Turkey to divide the process into phases and to gain time by preserving and improving existing affiliations while avoiding irreversible damages on existing relations.


For the purpose of blocking anti-Turkey campaigns organized by Greece, GCASC, and Armenian lobbies in the EU organizations, the government and the opposition need to work together. As paramount principles of foreign policy, dialog and direct contacts should be employed primarily and key individuals and groups within the agencies of the Union have to be informed about facts concerning the disputes. Besides, relationships with the EU member states ought to be strengthened at bilateral level.


Considering that some countries of the EU plan to ask Turkey’s membership to their peoples, impression of Turkey must be ameliorated by lobbying activities focused on the public opinions of member states. Within this framework, all of important individuals and private groups (intellectuals, businessmen, unions of employers and workers, representatives of NGOs) should visit their counterparts in Europe and tell them the truth alongside the official views of Turkey. They should also present and form the modern image of Turkey into the public opinions of these countries. Likewise, the Turks who are inhabited in Europe and whose representative abilities matter ought to be organized for lobbying in favor of Turkey within the member states.


2. Turkey-US Relations

Of all the challenges that Turkey must overcome to forward in line of its vision, lack of mutual confidence in bilateral relations with the US denotes the one of major others. In 2003, US Forces were not allowed to pass through the southeast of Turkey because the qualified majority necessary for license was not met in the Grand National Assembly. The anti-Turkey resolution of Armenian genocide recognition, which is pending but might be taken to the agenda anytime soon in the House of Representatives, has damaged the confidence between two states though the willingness for decision is more related to domestic concerns. In similar veins, US invasion of Iraq following the allegations on the presence of WMDs in this country has spurred the anti- American sentiments in Turkey. Despite the Turkish foreign policy in favor of territorial integrity of Iraq, suspicions about US connivance of an autonomous or even an independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq represents an important breaking point. That the terrorist organization of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) attacks into the Turkish lands nesting in northern Iraq is another question riling Turkey.


However, following PM Erdogan’s initiatives in Washington in November 2007 US officials began to supply real-time intelligence to Turkish army and this cooperation symbolized the reconsolidation of bilateral relations. The blunt statement that “PKK is an enemy for Iraq, Turkey and the USA” uttered by President George W. Bush as the President Gül was visiting America in the January 2008 repaired damaged relationship between two states to a large extent. Subsequently, it is observed that the image of America in the eyes of Turkish people has been to a degree ameliorated.


For the next period, the issue that whether reactions by Turkey and US to Iranian nuclear program will be similar remains a potential disagreement between two countries. Claiming to have global charges and supporting Israel unconditionally, the USA may pursue policies incompatible with the favorites of Turkey which must be wary of balances in its neighborhood as a regional power.


Nevertheless, the alignment of Turkey with US should be maintained and strengthened to a larger extent due to the fact that two countries enjoy similar visions and common benefits. Economic interests and security concerns above all entail such an alliance between the two. At this point, responsibility for preserving and developing the relationship continually is on the shoulders of both Turkish and American politicians as well as intellectuals.


3. Turkey-Russia Relations

During the Cold War the quality of relationship between Ankara and Moscow has been for the most part reliant on interactions between the Western block mainly the US and Russia.


Initially, relations between two states have been based on the ground of an obvious rivalry while afterwards there appeared areas of cooperation with relatively less opposing attitudes.


After the establishment of Russian Federation bilateral dialogues have intensified and unlike faltering developments in political and security realms, economic relations have increased rapidly. Since Turkey is a member of NATO and Russia tended to keep former Soviet areas, namely the Caucasus and the Central Asia as its special sphere of influence, bilateral political and security relations have not improved sufficiently compared with commercial links. Meanwhile, as Russia expanded its economic power and consolidated its authority inside, tones of rivalry in its foreign policy preferences began to be more apparent.


With respect to economic relations, it is generally claimed that Turkey and Russia are two countries complementing each other. In addition to consumer products, Turkey exports service as Turkish contractors travel to Russia for various projects and a large number of Russian tourists visit Turkey each year. Considering the products including semi finished products, oil, gas and coal that Turkey imports from Russia, it seems that there is complementation in bilateral economic relations.  However, this is not adequate to say that economic relations function without troubles. Particular questions may at times exacerbate in the long run bringing about critical snags in political relations. Moscow does not regard economy as a field independent of politics and thus deems the utilization of economic issues for political gains applicable. For that reason, it is crucial for Turkey to pursue necessary investment and trade policies to stay away from being extremely dependent on Russia. Diversifying energy resources can be included in this range of measures. Turkey should seek to avoid relating economic issues to political relations and convey this viewpoint to Russia in every instance. For the inclusion of Russia within institutions and agreements concerning international free market regulations, Ankara ought to foster and support Moscow vigorously. In doing this, it is better for Turkey to concoct the guidelines together with other states sharing the same considerations.


Owing to the economic reasons rapprochement between Russia and Turkey prevails while various difficulties are manifest along with a number of common interests available. The foremost difficulty appears as Moscow holds its predilection to see the former Soviet states in its sphere of influence. Russia endeavors to legitimize this vision by “near abroad” doctrine rejecting the fact that the geography of those states is also contained within Turkey’s sphere of influence. In this respect, intensifying ties of Turkey with the former Soviet Republics in Caucasus and Central Asia are the source of distress for Russia which cannot eliminate the disintegration fear. The distress is currently on the rise since demographic trends in Russia are developing to the disadvantage of people with Russian origins. However, Turkey had better to consider sensitivities of Russia in spite of that it is unthinkable for Turkey to stay indifferent to those countries and not to forge further relations with them by admitting the “near abroad” doctrine.


Two states must have a mutual understanding against separatism because they both confronted the movements challenging their national unities in different periods. The positioning of Moscow for the separatist trends (including terrorist organizations) in Turkey is connected with Ankara’s attitude to the secessionism in Russia. In this respect, there is no way apart from preserving the principle of reciprocity in a strict manner.


Being ready to resort to force in internal and external conflicts, Russia still is a big country enjoying nuclear power and having large conventional military capacities. Therefore, despite its good relations with Moscow, Turkey has to remain within the NATO defense system seeking to control Russia in terms of security matters. With same concerns, it is necessary for Turkey to balance Russia’s strategic power and initiatives in line with its “near abroad” doctrine by bolstering the enlargement of NATO.


That the eastward openings of Turkey take place through the Caucasus and to a certain extent across Iran is obvious at present. Russia strengthening its ties with Iran out of Caucasus, in particular with Armenia aims to block the defense-politics economy system of Western states counting Turkey to expand toward Asia. In order to prevent this strategy from proceeding, multifaceted policies ought to be followed by Ankara. It is essential to encourage NATO members for the maintenance of independence and territorial integrity of Georgia and to spend more effort to settle Azerbaijan-Armenia dispute and for improving Ankara-Yerevan relations. It is also indispensable to consolidate interactions with Teheran despite the existence of regional rivalry between Turkey and Iran and incompatibility of their regimes. In addition to these, Turkey should work toward achievement and continuance of at least tacit assistance by Central Asian states for the functioning of the East-West corridor.


In assessing the strategic aspects of Turkey-Russia relationship, the significant and decisive role of Turkey-EU relations certainly requires emphasis. To the extent that Turkey integrates with the Union, Ankara’s relations with Moscow will be balanced and its friendship with other states in the region will gain impact. Therefore, for maintaining its strategic balance with Russia, the most viable means in favor of Turkey emerges as persistently sustaining the efforts for the EU membership.


Turkey has a duty to be determined for complying with international law in its foreign relations especially with Russia because obedience to international law will embolden Ankara’s hand both among friends and against rivals. 


In recent years, there has been an increasing competition between Turkey and Russia on the transportation of oil and natural gas from Caucasus, Central Asia and Iran to the world markets. Russia has been planning to capture a strategic upper hand by controlling a vast amount of energy sources that Western states inevitably need to consume. Through this policy, Moscow will reinforce its influence on energy producing countries and gain more from transit routes passing through its soil. In addition these transit ways in Russia, there are alternative energy transport routes going across Turkey. Because Moscow does not wish for a Turkey becoming an East- West energy corridor, it tries to impede this process by various strategies. Among these one may count the Kremlin’s policies to export its oil to international markets out of different conduits bypassing Turkey and to block the BTC pipeline-related enterprises by countries on which it can exert pressure. Furthermore, as some rumors reveal.


Russia plots circumstances under which the security of pipelines in Turkey might be questioned seriously. Since the problem is not only about Turkey, Ankara has to tell the European states would-be major energy consumers, the importance of its presence as an independent energy corridor and to gain their support for the object. It seems risky of being too dependent on Russia if its inclination in limiting energy transfers to some neighbors by political motives and the severity of its actions in Georgia are taken into consideration. On the other hand, potential areas of cooperation with Russia on the projects of energy transport routes across Turkey should not be thwarted. The basic notion needs particular attention is the assurance of that Russia conducts economic and political affairs as divergent realms.


4. Relations with New Power Bases

The East Asian countries at the helm of which being China, India and Japan are taking the course of an enormous growth in terms of economic, political and military capacities. In the post-Cold War era, for instance, Beijing utilizing the opportunities of globalization in a realistic and rational way has extensively reaped the benefits of changing conditions. China began to affect global balances critically not just in international trade and investment but in formation of geopolitical roles of states and the areas such as energy security, environmental pollution, and community development policies. India as another major developing country has made a considerable progress and Japan endures being the center of attention in the East Asia with its economic significance at global level.


Through the process of regionalization, Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Shanghai Co-operation Organization (SCO) as new organizations came to the fore in Asia. The influence of institutions namely the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) including the USA, Russia, China, Japan as well and the Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM) gathering Asian and European countries, to a certain extent increased. The initial integration movements for improving economic and trade relations have subsequently contained political and security dimensions.


As a corollary of rapid developments the need for energy in East Asia grew tremendously and thus China, Japan and India became active parties of the rivalry over energy sources and transport routes. Accordingly, concentration and initiatives of these countries on the regions of Middle East and the Central Asia started to expand. Commercial policies and energy enterprises by those states toward the two regions boosted the geopolitical weight of Turkey being an outstanding actor in its neighborhood.


Since disregarding these changes and their impacts in its region is unconceivable for Turkey, the task of Ankara appears as to advance the links with major East Asian countries in proportion with the pace of their dynamism. In order to upgrade level of friendship with these states the rapprochement must take place by furthering the tempo of present interactions. Likewise, affairs with countries in Africa and Latin America ought to be given more intensive treatment. All of the initiatives should be realized not as alternative to the relations with the US and the EU but in a way to accompany these affiliations and to utilize indirect benefits when geopolitical position of Turkey allows doing so.


5. Relations with the Neighborhood

The Caucasia
The Caucasus due to its geographic location being the opening door into the Central Asia represents a strategically significant region for Turkey. With accomplishments of the projects, “Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan Oil Pipeline” in 2006, “Baku- Tbilisi-Erzurum Gas Pipeline” in 2007, and “Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway” in 2008 the value of the region to Ankara has considerably raised.


Russia deems that its interests are disputed as Turkey turns into an energy corridor and transport route on the East-West axis and is exceptionally irritated by the related westward sliding of the region. Its excessive intervention in the Caucasus, which undermined the status quo of the area, demonstrates that Moscow  henceforth will take active and stringent actions to the developments on its periphery rather than passive reactions as it used to give previously.


The basis of Turkish foreign policy toward the region is formed by three major principals the first and the foremost of which stands for the maintenance of sovereignty and territorial integrity of Caucasian countries. Providing their integration into western institutions with political and economic aids, and improving as well as preserving cooperation, stability and peace in the region appear as the other two basic insights. The question of breakaway regions to be precise Nagorno-Karabakh, South Ossetia and Abkhazia remains the main obstacle to establishing peace and stability in the Caucasus. Ankara should persist for peaceful settlements of the conflicts afflicting the region in accordance with international law and contribute political steadiness and economic welfare of the countries. Therefore, it is worthwhile to initiate institutions like Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform under which the necessary ground for dialogue among the Caucasian states seems possible to remedy the long lasting problematic relations.


Watching closely the status of the dispute in South Ossetia, Turkey must instigate debates in diplomatic circles about the studies of Minsk Group to remove the obstruction in Nagorno-Karabakh and put new plans and proposals on the desk. Policies in dealing with Armenian Diaspora and toward Yerevan ought to be designed in different ranges rather than adopting a single frame. Since Armenia as an enclosed country of the region relies on the Diaspora in both political and economic matters, it is essential for Ankara to broaden the channel of communication at bilateral stage gradually by sponsoring the confidence building. In this context, Turkish President’s visit to Armenia on the occasion of a football match represents a step forward that must be supplemented by further overtures.


The Middle East
The launch of Israeli-Syrian indirect talks, the attempt by Tel-Aviv to a cease-fire with Hamas and exchange of captives with Hezbollah, and reconciliation of government crisis in Lebanon can be considered as hopeful signs for peace in the region. Readjustment of US approach to Iran even with tactical reasons, positive response of Teheran to this attitude change and the Sunni Bloc’s return to federal government in Iraq are also promising developments for the future of the Middle East.


From its independence onward, The Republic of Turkey in line with a rationalist and a realist foreign policy has sought to forge friendly relations with all countries of the Middle East to sustain permanent peace and stability in the region. Thus, accomplished to sidestep potential threats likely to affect its safety, Turkey has stayed as a reliable and respected state of the region. It can be observed that Ankara in recent years has been prompt to transform the regional environment fraught with crises and volatility into the atmosphere suitable for peace and cooperation. Turkey achieved success in settling armed conflicts as well through pursuing multidimensional policies vigorously and remaining attentive to the happenings in the Middle East. Similarly, Ankara has been working toward a compromise formula acceptable to the parties on the subject of the nuclear program of Iran for a period of time. It is evident that all of these initiatives will contribute to the approval and the power of Turkey in the region.


As an outcome of population growth, climate change, rapid urbanization and industrialization in general, the question of water shortage is anticipated to emerge as one of the most serious issues of the Middle East in the near future. In this respect, waters of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers that have occasionally strained Turkey’s relationships with Syria and Iraq in the past might elevate on the agenda in the forthcoming years. Therefore, necessary precautions and planning must be put on the ground through following the studies for international “Law of Waters” circumspectly.


The Balkans
The peace established by Dayton Accords in the Balkans in 1995 after a period of political instability in the post-Cold War era, has been elusive. The instance that Kosovo declared its independence has triggered new tensions in the region while the situation of the six districts mostly inhabited by Serbs in the north of the country is still precarious. Pertinently, Bosnian Serbs will probably unite with Serbia claiming their right to self-determination when conditions are ripe for doing so. The independence of Kosovo also alarmed Macedonia where one-fourth of the population is comprised of ethnic Albanians. It is worried that the ethnic Albanians living in the vicinities of Albania and Kosovo will secede from Macedonia as well. Under present circumstances, political stability in the Balkans is maintained in the shadow of arms whereas the “soft power” of EU in shaping the future of the region matters substantially.


For instituting lasting stability and consolidating cooperation in the Balkans, Turkey plays a pioneering role in regional organizations chiefly in “The South East European Cooperation Process” and contributes productively to international initiatives like “Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe”. Improvement of the status for permanent peace and stability in the area benefits both the Balkan countries and Turkey for which the value of the region means connection to and integration with the EU.


Establishment of a durable stability in the Balkans might gain momentum through the accession of non-member countries of the region to the EU. From among the countries in the region, Greece, Slovenia, Bulgaria, and Romania are currently members of the Union as accession talks are continuing with Croatia and Turkey. In case of required conditions, the EU confirmed that accession negotiations of Macedonia also will begin. Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia too have expressed their will either explicitly or implicitly to be a member of the Union. In order to surmount the problems of micro-nationalism and ethnic clash which had influenced the region gravely in the 1990s and to sustain political stability, non-member Balkan states should join the EU. Within this framework Turkey’s goal for accession the EU is of greater importance.


Greece and Cyprus
Turkey and Greece are two neighboring countries that exist in the same geography and enjoy common interests and attributes while the present status of relationships between the two does not proceed at satisfying levels. There have been a number of interrelated factors affecting bilateral relations in a negative way. Some of these factors stem from the nature of the geography in which two states live together and the condition of the ethnically Turkish population in Greece and the Cyprus. Beneath other factors damaging the relationship between two countries, it is possible to count the breaches of existing international treaties by Athens. First of all, revisionist policies of Greece appear as underlying causes of the dispute in the Aegean Sea where the status quo was formed by the Treaty of Lausanne and the Paris Peace Accord. Interpreting the 1982 UN Law of the Sea Convention in its favor, Greece has been taking initiatives and seeking for windows of opportunity to alter the balance in the Aegean to its advantage. Athens regularly attempts to extend its territorial waters, continental shelf and airspace, and to populate the islands with indeterminate state of belonging and has been arming the islands close to Turkey in violation of the Treaty of Lausanne and the Paris Peace Accord. All of these efforts indicate that Greece desires to make the Aegean Sea a Greek lake in contrast to the tenacity of Turkey to preserve the status quo.


Despite the bloody coup plotted by the Athens-backed Greek Cypriots to topple the order the London and Zurich agreements placed in Cyprus, the military intervention of Turkey and the subsequent atmosphere of peace and stability following the establishment of Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), Greek Cyprus insists on contending Turkish Cypriots minority of the Island. To prevent the past events from happening again, Ankara and the TRNC demand a federal system based on the equality of two states in Cyprus with Turkey being an effectual guarantor pursuant to the London and Zurich agreements. Considering that Greek Cyprus rejected the Annan Plan which Turkish Cypriots accepted, it is clearly visible that the party favoring a balanced and a permanent peace in the Island is the TRNC. 


Turkey like for other regions is an advocate of peace and stability in the Aegean and Cyprus so Ankara had better utilize every single chance to advance the relations with Greece. The focus should be on intensifying top-level dialogs and devising solid projects for facilitating bilateral cooperation and peace since making headways in relations will take place to the advantage of both parties. These achievements if realized are going to boost confidence and thus friendship among two states smoothing the pathway of dispute settlement. On the whole, improvement of the relationship between Turkey and Greece will contribute to the peace and stability throughout the region.


For the purpose of dissuading Greece from taking steps along the lines of its revisionist ambitions, Turkey needs to develop and to maintain the deterrent power at its disposal. Taking account of the fact that Greece and the Greek Cyprus are members of the EU and have initiatives to make above-mentioned matters questions of the Union, it is understood that Turkey’s accession process is crucial. Required measures for the issue were remarked in the related section.

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