Moira Goff-Taylor who is responsible from South Europe region in the US Ministry of Foreign Affairs visited Wise Men Centre for Strategic Studies (BİLGESAM) on 10th June 2010 and took the opinions of President Assoc. Prof. Atilla Sandıklı about Turkey’s Middle East policies. After giving information about the organizational structure, purpose of BİLGESAM and continuing studies; Atilla Sandıklı evaluated the last period of Turkish foreign politics and the dialogue continued with questions and answers.
Atilla Sandıklı first emphasized that after Cold war period bipolar world ended and mentioned that even if there is strategic cooperation between countries different policies can be followed when there is conflict of interests. We no longer live in a bipolar world, the politics of ally countries have not been designated only by alliance politics. In the framework of multi dimensional foreign politics, the countries are trying to develop their interests with more flexible policies. In this framework Turkey’s multi dimensional foreign policy should not create disturbance. Just as the USA and the EU have been developing their relations with the other leader country of the other block in Cold War period; Turkey too is developing its relations with Russia, Central Asia, the Caucasus, Balkans and Middle East. It follows the developments and problems in those regions. It is trying to contribute to the peace, stability and comfort in the region.
Sandıklı mentioned that the Middle East policies of the US in the time of Bush government created lack of confidence in Turkish public opinion. For Turkish-EU relations he said that, the negative attitudes of the EU in the accession process decreased Turkish public’s excitement of being a member of the EU and the slow progress of the process caused Turkey to show more interest in regional politics. Atilla Sandıklı also prophesied that Turkey will not only become a part of the Middle East but also become the leader of it. He also mentioned that while Turkey becomes closer with the Middle East it will reflect its European values to the region and be affected from the regional characteristics of the Middle East. That is why the relationship between Turkey– EU is so important; the expectation and target of full membership will keep the European values in Turkey alive and will neutralize Turkey’s affection from Middle East’s structural features. Sandıklı put forward that a Turkey that is fully integrated with the West will make a great contribution to dialogue between civilization and the relations between the East and the West.
Sandıklı specified that actually the targets of Turkey as a regional power overlaps with the global power USA’s in terms of peace, stability and comfort. He also emphasizes that Turkey carries a structuralist character in terms of developing the policies towards this target and dialogue, economic and cultural cooperation and it contributes to peace and stability. Sandıklı mentioned that it is natural that Turkey as a regional power against the developments that threatens the regional peace and stability; develops policies and makes the global powers to deal with these problems. At the base of these policies of Turkey, dialogue and diplomacy stand in the forefront and explained that it will be always beneficial that there is a state which keeps the dialogue open against the regional politics’ coerced measures. Atilla Sandıklı answered the questions of Moira Goff-Taylor after these evaluations.
Goff-Taylor: Since 2008 there is a regression in the relations between Turkey and Israel. How do you see the future of the relations and what do you think that Israel should do?
Sandıklı: To reach a conclusion first of all the importance and priority that US security strategy gives to Israel’s security should be considered. Israel can act carelessly by taking the boundless and unquestioned support of the US, and without taking into consideration the international legal principles and by depending on USA’s authorization of veto. In this policy might be right in a bipolar world where Arab countries act with Russia. But now the situation is very different. In the Middle East there is many US bases in Arab countries. In such a position to continue with the old politics will negative affect the USA’s presence in the region and its benefits. The hopes that increase with the presidency of Obama should be supported with the policies. USA’s bringing up the approach that undertakes the Palestine problem and looks for a solution with a two state structure and starts an initiative will be a factor that reduces the tension. As a result the prestige of US in the region will increase and contribute to the solutions of many problems.
Another important point is that, Israel should be an actor that does not consume the security in the region but should contribute to peace and stability. Tel-Aviv that succeed to make an agreement with Egypt and Jordan; should prosecute the same process also with Syria. This development would be the most important event that can provide Israel’s security. However in this issue Israel betrayed Turkey’s trust explicitly twice. In 2006, Syria and Israel were almost sitting at the peace table with Turkey’s attempts and dedicating efforts. What has Israel done? Entered into South Lebanon, invaded this region for a long time. It caused many civilian deaths. In 2009 same thing happened this time as open to media. As a result of big efforts of Turkey Syria and Israel again came to the level of sitting on the peace table. While this was happening Israel made a very bloody operation in Gaza. It caused almost 1500 people to die. We ask ourselves: the security of Israel? On the contrary Israel’s policies threaten the security of others. As in the past, Israel hopes for help from the instable and confrontational environment. It can exploit its best allies in the region. These are the causes that have been experienced at the back stage of the negative happenings in the relations of Turkey-Israel. In the same measure that Tel Aviv contributes to peace and stability in the region, it will fix its relations with Turkey rapidly and make a greater contribution to its own safety.
Goff-Taylor: With regard to Iran, do you think that Turkey will affect Iran’s decision making process?
Sandıklı: I should mention that, in this existing conjuncture, I believe that Iran can act towards producing nuclear weapons. In the leadership of the USA, I saw that the sanctions which passed from the UN Security Council, focused on Iran’s missile and nuclear technology. These measures are against producing nuclear weapons by Iran. When these sanctions were applied, Iran will experience difficulties in some issues. It will look for a dialogue environment. In this search for dialogue the importance of the attempts of Turkey will be well understood. Turkey believes that the problem will end with dialogue and diplomacy. It is important that at least this door will not be closed. The exchange agreement that was accepted by Brazil and Iran shows the importance and necessity of continuity of such an attempt.
Turkey will be effective at the point of preventing Iran’s impulsive action. In fact Ankara exerts effort for Iran to integrate with the international community, and plays the role of opening the dialogue door open to Tehran while coerced measures are applied. Actually the problem originated from mistrust. In Bush period, Iran was one of the countries that have been defined as the “bandit state.” Others were Syria, Lebanon and North Korea. Syria and Lebanon, especially Syria, entered into the process of integration with international community in the framework of policy development with Turkey.
Because that Iran feels threatened and existing government is authoritarian, it asks to itself that “how can I provide my very own security against a global power like the USA?” the impossibility of this with conventional weapons was seen in Iraq. The only option that left as deterrent is nuclear. If mutual trust will be provided and relations will be developed with Iran; Tehran can make policy changes with Turkey’s constructive role. It can move along with international community.
Other issue is states’ following hesitant policies when different countries are considered. Turkey does not want any country to have nuclear weapons in the Middle East. What kind of an approach is showed to Iran that tries to possess this weapon, or to Israel that is definitely possess the weapon. They pretend not to have seen or heard. Trust necessitates consistency. The measures that were applied to this country should also be applied to others.
Goff-Taylor: Do you see a conflict between the old regime in Syria and Esad?
Sandıklı: It would be stargazing not to say such a thing. Esad started a new foreign policy and he continues with it. He developed the relations with Turkey rapidly. He contributed both the peace and stability in the country and people’s peace and welfare. It is normal that some old administrators to be bothered and looking with the new developments who internalized the old policies. But I do not think that they will be successful. On the other hand I believe that in the integration policies of Syria with the international community, Turkey has a role. The developments in Israel-Palestine problem and the peace process of Israel-Syria will positively affect the trend.
Goff-Taylor: Is the old regime in Syria uncomfortable from the relations with Turkey? How do you assess this?
Sandıklı: The relations changed and developed so rapidly that there is an ever increasing interaction among the public. That is why I do not think that the ones who are against the relations with Turkey cannot dare to utter this.