AHMET DAVUTOĞLU, Turkish foreign policy vision

AHMET DAVUTOĞLU, Turkish foreign policy vision

O AHMET DAVUTOĞLU έγινε μόλις προχθές Υπουργός Εξωτερικών. Σε λίγες εβδομάδες, απ’ ότι γνωρίζω κυκλοφορεί στα ελληνικά το βιβλίο του Στρατηγικό βάθος (Εκδόσεις Ποιότητα). Εδώ παραθέτω πρόσφατο ενδιαφέρον κείμενο. Πολλά αλλάζουν στον περίγυρό μας και κυρίως η Τουρκία. Εμείς εδώ βρισκόμαστε στον κατήφορο που μας έθεσαν κάποιοι που έπεισαν την ελληνική πολιτική ηγεσία ότι οι διακρατικές διενέξεις επιλύονται με ζειμπέκικα και κουμπαριές. Δεν έχει και πολλή σημασία γιατί ο καθείς παθαίνει ότι του αξίζει. Επειδή ο κόσμος πάει και έρχεται και ο τροχός γυρίζει εμείς θα πρέπει να ετοιμαζόμαστε για την επόμενη φάση, όταν θα περάσει η καταιγίδα.

Turkey’s Foreign Policy Vision:
An Assessment of 2007*
AHMET DAVUTOĞLU**
* Th is essay is based on the transcript of a CNN Turk program
with Prof. Davutoğlu on January 2, 2008.
** Professor of International Relations, Ambassador and Chief
Advisor to Turkish PM

If a map of the complex web of global relations
during the Cold War had been
drawn, Turkey would have been considered
a frontier country. As part of the Western
block, it was a means of control in the South
among the Western powers extending to the
East and at the edge of the West. It was institutionally
in the West, and was considered
the most important country in NATO; it still
preserves this position. Aft er the end of Cold
War in the early 1990s, a new notion of Turkey
emerged as a bridge country. As many new
problems emerged in the post-Cold War era,
among them the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and
the crises in the Balkans, Turkey’s main objective
became the protection of its own stability.
Turkey maintained its stability amid the chaos
that engulfed many of its near neighbors, and
the international community began to look to
Turkey as an island of stability and a bridge
country between east and west.
Today, in the new era marked by the
aft ermath of September 11th, an accurate
redefi nition of Turkey’s position is
urgently needed. Turkey’s new position
has both an ideational and a geographical
basis. In terms of geography, Turkey
occupies a unique space. As a large country in the midst of Afro-Eurasia’s vast
landmass, it may be defi ned as a central country with multiple regional identities
that cannot be reduced to one unifi ed character. Like Russia, Germany, Iran, and
Egypt, Turkey cannot be explained geographically or culturally by associating it
with one single region. Turkey’s diverse regional composition lends it the capability
of maneuvering in several regions simultaneously; in this sense, it controls an
area of infl uence in its immediate environs.
Th ere are continental countries such as the United States and Australia. Countries
in this category, which are continents themselves in some cases, are located
away from Afro-Eurasian heartland. One may include even Europe, India and
China in this category. In territorial terms, they are geographically big enough
so that they are not defi ned by reference to an external geographical region. Th ey
are self-suffi cient in many respects and have developed distinct cultures of their
own. Another cluster of countries could be considered island countries such as
Japan and the United Kingdom. Situated at the edges of a continent, they maintain
special relations with the continental powers. Peripheral countries constitute
a distinct category in that they belong to a region and could be defi ned by the
characteristics of that region.
Among all these classifi cations, Turkey holds a special position. Turkey’s geography
gives it a specifi c central country status, which diff ers from other central
countries. For example, Germany is a central country in Central Europe, which is
far from Asia and Africa. Russia is another central country in the lands of Europe
and Asia, which is far from Africa. Iran is a central country in Asia, which is far
from Europe and Africa. Taking a broader, global view, Turkey holds an optimal
place in the sense that it is both an Asian and European country and is also close
to Africa through the Eastern Mediterranean. A central country with such an optimal
geographic location can not defi ne itself in a defensive manner. It should be
seen neither as a bridge country which only connects two points, nor a frontier
country, nor indeed as an ordinary country, which sits at the edge of the Muslim
world or the West.
Turkey’s diverse regional
composition lends it the
capability of maneuvering in
several regions simultaneously
Turkey’s Foreign Policy Vision: An Assessment of 2007
79
Just as geography, history, too, may
come to constitute a country as a central
country. Some countries play the central
country role in their region as a refl ection of their cultural and historical heritage.
For instance, Russia has a peculiar position of being a center of attraction because
of its historical role. Germany has played such a role since the Roman-Germanic
Empire. Turkey historically has been one of such centers of attraction. It was for
this reason that when Turkey embarked on a successful nation-building process
in the aft ermath of the Ottoman Empire, it gained population dynamism through
immigration from neighboring regions. Th e eff ects of having diverse Caucasian,
Balkan, Middle Eastern, Iraqi Turcoman and Anatolian elements, even in small
groups, are seen in everyday life in today’s Turkey, where diverse cultural elements
meet under the umbrella of the Turkish state. Turkey’s geography harmonizes
these elements. Turkey occupies a center of attraction in its region; its cultural
capital, Istanbul, spans two continents and is at once a Middle Eastern, Black Sea
and a Mediterranean city. In terms of its area of infl uence, Turkey is a Middle
Eastern, Balkan, Caucasian, Central Asian, Caspian, Mediterranean, Gulf, and
Black Sea country. Given this picture, Turkey should make its role of a peripheral
country part of its past, and appropriate a new position: one of providing security
and stability not only for itself, but also for its neighboring regions. Turkey should
guarantee its own security and stability by taking on a more active, constructive
role to provide order, stability and security in its environs.
Principles of Turkey’s New Foreign Policy
Since the year 2002, Turkey has begun to structure its policies on the basis of
this new vision, keeping in mind well-defi ned targets, and looking to benefi t from
its geographical position and historical assets. Five principles of Turkey’s foreign
policy making process need to be mentioned here. First, if there is not a balance
between security and democracy in a country, it may not have a chance to establish
an area of infl uence in its environs. Th e legitimacy of any political regime
comes from its ability to provide security to its citizens; this security should not
be at the expense of freedoms and human rights in the country. Administrations
that substantially restrict liberties in order to provide security are or soon become
authoritarian regimes. Since 2002, Turkey has maintained a position of promoting
civil liberties without undermining security. Th is is an ambitious yet worthy
aim, particularly in the post-September 11 environment, under the threat of terrorism,
in which the general tendency has been to restrict liberties for the sake of
Turkey’s geography gives it a
specifi c central country status
AHMET DAVUTOĞLU
80
security. Turkey has protected civil liberties under all conditions, despite a serious
challenge to it in 2007. Th e challenge was to carry out the struggle against terror
without narrowing the sphere of liberties. Turkey successfully overcame this challenge.
In the fall of 2007, the Turkish military pursued a military operation against
terrorist formations in Iraq for several weeks, with no negative impact on liberties
in İstanbul, Ankara, Diyarbakır, or Van. Normal life continues, even while
Turkey wages a war against terror. Th is successful balance is a matter of political
culture. Turkish authorities did not declare state of emergency, elections were not
postponed, and the election results did not infl uence the process in a negative way.
These results support the notion that Turkey’s most important soft power is its
democracy. Th e election resulted in a parliament that fostered the struggle against
terror. Despite concerns in early 2007, this experience demonstrated that the balance
between democracy and security is settled in Turkey.
Second, a “zero problem policy toward Turkey’s neighbors” has been successfully
implemented for the past four years. Turkey’s relations with its neighbors
now follow the right track in comparison to previous years. Th e most striking
examples of Turkey’s success in the region are its relations with Syria and Georgia.
There is an intense economic interdependence with these countries. In contrast
to that of 5-10 years ago, Turkey’s level of relations with Syria today stands as a
model of progress for the rest of the region. It is the same with Georgia. Developments
such as the use of Batum airport as a domestic airport, and the growth of
the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway project, which were furthered without creating any
fear of imperial expansion, are exemplary. Th e economies of Syria and Turkey are
now integrated as a result of a free trade agreement. In addition, aft er Bulgaria’s
entry into the EU, Turkey’s relations with this country further improved in a striking
way. Turkish-Iranian relations did not face diffi culties during this sensitive
period, and the Solana-Larijani talk in Turkey created a meaningful channel for
discussion of the nuclear issue. All of these achievements indicate that Turkey has
developed a substantial trust in its relations with its neighbors.
Th e Iraqi challenge in 2007 sparked fears that the crisis would have a negative
impact on Turkey’s relations with the rest of its neighbors. Turkey has so far
been successful in tackling Iraq-related risks. Th e PKK had aimed to create a wave
of terror in order to bring Turkey face to face with Kurdish groups in Northern
Iraq, and to instigate confl ict between Turkey and the Iraqi central administration,
the Arab world, and if possible with the whole Middle East and the United
States. If Turkey had not responded with fi ne-tuned diplomacy and correct timTurkey’s
Foreign Policy Vision: An Assessment of 2007
81
ing, a crisis with the Iraqi government
would surely have ensued. Instead, Turkey’s
operations against the PKK continued
for more than a month and the
Iraqi government responded reasonably
with an understanding that the PKK is a
common enemy. Th is outcome demonstrates
how two neighboring countries
can cooperate against a common threat.
Th e third principle is to develop relations with the neighboring regions and beyond.
Turkey’s regional impact extends to the Balkans, the Middle East, the Caucasus
and Central Asia. Turkey became active in the Balkans, in particular, due to
the Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina crises. Providing infrastructure for this active
policy were Turkey’s relations with NATO, the European Union, and the West
in general. Turkey also enjoys close relations with Azerbaijan and Georgia in the
Caucasus. To date, however, there have been only limited possibilities for Turkey
to extend its infl uence to the Middle East. Th e PKK factor, as well as the existence
of mutual negative images on both sides, have been a stumbling block in the form
of a mutual psychological barrier. Nevertheless, thanks to our eff orts in the last
fi ve years, we have helped to overcome some of these barriers. Now, whatever may
happen in the Middle East, Turkey has channels to follow these developments immediately.
Despite its limitations, Turkey does have infl uence in Middle Eastern
aff airs, and not only at the state level but also at the societal level. For example,
during the recent Lebanon crisis, Prime Minister Erdoğan talked on the phone
with Nebih Berri and Saad Hariri, as well as with Siniora and Hezbollah. In 2004,
then Foreign Minister Gόl’s visit to Lebanon was the fi rst foreign ministerial visit
to Lebanon for the past 25 years. Turkey has since become one of the most active
countries in Lebanon recently, providing it with a fi rm diplomatic base. In this
sense, Turkey’s infl uence in the region has increased.
As a second example of such progress, in early 2007, a Sunni-Shia division occurred
due to tensions between Shia and Sunni groups in Iraq. Turkey assumed an
active role in seeking to bridge this divide and maintained a balanced policy toward
both sides. Pakistan’s President Musharraf organized a seven country meeting
in Pakistan, which was perceived as an attempt against Iran. Turkey joined this
group, but did not severe its relations with Shia groups in Iraq, the Iraqi government,
or with Iran. Turkey thus involved itself, but did not take sides in this dangerous
division. If one remembers the visits of Prime Minister Erdoğan to Iran,
Turkey should guarantee its
own security and stability
by taking on a more active,
constructive role to provide
order, stability and security in
its environs
AHMET DAVUTOĞLU
82
Syria, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia in December 2006, and his speech at the Arab
League in 2007, it becomes clear that Turkish policy is to remain outside the Shia-
Sunni division. At the same time, Turkey does not follow a passive line; rather, it
pursues an active policy in regard to this tension in the region. Th is policy has
helped Turkey to develop good relations with the Shia-backed Maliki government
in Iraq. Moreover, Turkey has also developed good relations with the Sunni opposition
in the region. Likewise, Turkey is close to both the Sunni establishment
and the Shia opposition in Lebanon.
Th e fourth principle is adherence to a multi-dimensional foreign policy. Turkey’s
relations with other global actors aim to be complementary, not in competition.
Such a policy views Turkey’s strategic relations with the United States
through the two countries’ bilateral ties and through NATO, and considers its
membership process to the EU, its good neighborhood policy with Russia, and its
synchronization policy in Eurasia as integral parts of a consistent policy that serves
to complete each other. Turkey’s multi-dimensional foreign policy has been fi rmly
established for the past 4-5 years, and has been largely successful. Th e most signifi
cant threat to this policy came when the relations with the United States were
expected to collapse in 2007. A serious problem with the United States seemed
imminent, due to the developments concerning the Armenian resolution and the
Iraqi situation. Nevertheless, by the end of 2007, Turkish-American relations had
evolved such that both sides emerged with a better understanding of each other;
channels of communication continue to remain open on both sides. In regard to
the EU, although the integration process slowed down, a serious deadlock was
avoided and the process was not suspended. And although relations with France
seemed to have problems aft er the French elections, the expected crisis was managed
in a pragmatic manner. Overall, the relations with the EU did not progress
to an extent that we would like to see, but the relationship has continued, let alone
being suspended, as many feared. Also, an institutionalized pattern of relations
with Russia emerged.
Th e fi ft h principle in this framework is rhythmic diplomacy. Turkey’s serious
and sustained development in the fi eld of diplomacy becomes evident if we look at
the international meetings and organizations it has hosted since 2003. Th e NATO
Summit and the OIC Summit are just two examples: clearly Turkey has gained
more infl uence in international organizations. Interesting developments in this
regard took place in 2007. For instance, Turkey now has an observer status in the
African Union, a natural result of Turkey’s opening to Africa in 2005. Turkey has
Turkey’s Foreign Policy Vision: An Assessment of 2007
83
been invited to the Arab League twice,
both at the level of foreign minister and
prime minister. Turkey signed a special
agreement with the Arab countries during
a meeting of Iraq’s neighbors held
in Istanbul on November 2 2007. Th is
agreement includes the plans for institutionalizing
the relations among Iraq’s neighbors, and constituting a Turkish-Arab
forum. As this line of important meetings continued, a meeting bringing together
the least developed 50 countries convened in Istanbul in July. On a diff erent note,
Solana and Larijani met in Turkey to discuss the Iranian nuclear issue. Similarly,
the only functional channel between Pakistan and Afghanistan was created by the
initiatives of Mr. Gόl; later, with the initiatives of Turkey’s President and Prime
Minister, Pakistani President Musharraf and Afghan President Karzai met in Turkey
in May. Th is dialogue will continue aft er Pakistan has resolved its current
instability. Similarly, the Palestinian and Israeli Presidents Mahmoud Abbas and
Shimon Peres came together in Ankara before going to the Annapolis meeting in
the US.
Turkish foreign policy anticipates a continuation of this pace with reliance on
the successful strategy of rhythmic diplomacy. It is important to recognize the
change in Turkey’s image brought about by its intense diplomatic activities from
2002 to 2007. Turkey now enjoys an image as a responsible state which provides
order and security to the region, one that prioritizes democracy and liberties,
while dealing competently with security problems at home. Turkey’s aim is to intervene
consistently in global issues using international platforms, which signifi es
a transformation for Turkey from a central country to a global power. It should
also be underlined that this transformation is the result of the performance of all
actors involved in foreign policy. Turkey’s success is not only the result of state
policies, but also the activities of civil society, business organizations, and numerous
other organizations, all operating under the guidance of the new vision.
Th e state’s macro strategy is in conformity with the micro strategies of individual
people, corporations, and civil society organizations. To list just a few examples,
one of Turkey’s business confederations, TUSKON (Confederation of Businessman
and Industrialists of Turkiye), organizes the Africa Summit in conformity
with the Africa policy and brings high numbers of African ministers to Turkey.
TUSIAD (Th e Turkish Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Association) pursues lobby
activities to facilitate Turkey’s entry into the EU. MUSIAD (Th e Independent
If there is not a balance between
security and democracy in
a country, it may not have a
chance to establish an area of
infl uence in its environs
AHMET DAVUTOĞLU
84
Industrialists and Businessman’s Association)
is actively involved in organizing
business events in the Gulf, bringing
together leading players in global economy and fi nance. And there are many other
civil society organizations whose activities further Turkey’s international aspirations,
like those that reached out to the devastated areas aft er the 2005 earthquake
in Pakistan and the Tsunami in the Indian Ocean. Turkish civil society organizations
form an integral part of the bigger picture defi ned as foreign policy. All of
these elements have become part of Turkey’s new international vision.
Iraq Policy
Turkey has been one of the most infl uential actors involved in solving the
question of Iraq’s future, during and aft er the invasion of Iraq. Th e meetings of
the Extended Neighboring Countries of Iraq have made a serious contribution to
the Iraqi question in the international arena. Turkey’s eff orts have not only helped
to establish the legitimacy of the Iraqi government, but also paved way for Iraq to
be not solely an American but an international issue to be dealt with within the
framework of the United Nations. Th is ‘neighboring countries’ process was initiated
by Turkey. Due to the presidential election in the Turkish agenda, the fi rst
meeting for bringing together the expanded neighboring countries of Iraq was
convened in Sharm al-Sheikh at the beginning of May 2007. Th e second meeting
was convened in Istanbul in early November of the same year. Th ese two meetings
defi ned a common international attitude toward Iraq. Replacing speculative
scenarios about Iraq’s fragmentation, these meetings have also provided the international
community with a way to commit itself to the territorial integrity and
unity of Iraq.
Today, it is important for Turkey to further establish its position in the Middle
East. Th is position must rest on four main principles. First of all, security for everyone,
not only for this group or that group, this country or that country, but
common security for the entire region. Second, priority must be given to dialogue
as a means of solving crises. Here Turkey’s role as a facilitator is already wellestablished.
Aft er all, why are Turkey’s prime minister, president, and minister of
foreign aff airs paying continuous visits to the Middle East? Because they are the
only leaders who can contact all Middle Eastern leaders. If, for instance, there
were no diplomatic relationship between two powerful countries such as Iran and
Egypt, and if their leaders did not meet, there would be little possibility for establishing
order in the Middle East. Would it be possible to establish order in Europe
Turkey’s most important soft
power is its democracy
Turkey’s Foreign Policy Vision: An Assessment of 2007
85
if France and Britain did not have any
relations? In such a case, a country like
Germany or another important third actor
would have to intervene and set up
channels for political dialogue, just as
Turkey has done and continues to do in
the Middle East. Turkey has undertaken many positive promoter roles among
Middle Eastern states in recent years, some of which have been visible and some
invisible to the public eye. Th ose countries have found every confi dence in Turkey.
Today, Turkey and its diplomatic means have proven to be the strongest and
most reliable channels, not only between states, but also between communities
and non-state actors. All parties acknowledge this. When a message or a concern
has to be delivered from one place to another, Turkish channels are utilized.
Th e third principle is economic interdependence. Order in the Middle East
cannot be achieved in an atmosphere of isolated economies. Th is holds true for
Iraq, Syria, and others. Th e fourth principle is cultural coexistence and plurality.
Historically, none of the Middle Eastern cities have been composed of a homogenous
ethnic and sectarian fabric. Neither Basra, nor Damascus, İstanbul or
Kirkuk is a homogenous city. Th erefore, in order to establish order in the Middle
East, it is essential to maintain this composition in one way or another.
Th e fourth principle of cultural coexistence and plurality is especially important
for Iraq’s future. As ethnic disputes continue in the region, the international
community can take on an advisory role in establishing a multi-cultural and viable
Iraqi government. Several of Iraq’s neighbors have already weighed in on
Iraq’s future. As an important actor in Iraq, Iran prefers an undivided Iraq that is
governed by Shiite dominance. As an equally important actor, Turkey also prefers
Iraq to be undivided, to sustain its balancing role, and not to fall into chaos as a
result of successive surges of instability that would destroy its borders. Jordan considers
possible individual states that would emerge out of an Iraqi disintegration
to be a major threat. Saudi Arabia sees a potential Shiite state that would emerge
out of a fragmented Iraq as an arm stretching right towards the Gulf. Syria believes
that Iraqi disintegration would constitute a heavy blow to Arab nationalism.
In Iraq itself, there are no parties that would benefi t from disintegration. When
all these concerns are gathered together, even if the neighboring countries do not
seem to be able to establish a common ground in a positive and constructive way,
they share a common attitude towards the potentially dangerous consequences
Turkey’s regional impact
extends to the Balkans, the
Middle East, the Caucasus and
Central Asia
AHMET DAVUTOĞLU
86
of the disintegration of Iraq. Th rough its
Neighboring Countries initiative, Turkey
has kept the ground for constructive
dialogue between Iraq and its neighbors
afl oat since 2003.
Unfortunately there is, at present, no political mechanism that would guarantee
a working political system in Iraq. Turkey’s eff orts to integrate the Sunni community
into the system are well recognized. Beyond that, Turkey maintains close
contacts even with the smallest groups in Iraqi society. According to what has
been observed through these channels until now, these groups remain unable to
compromise on a mutual agreement that would hold the political system in good
working order. Nevertheless, each of these groups is fully aware that they would
suff er from Iraq’s disintegration. Today, looking from this perspective (as opposed
to that of disintegration scenarios that had consistently risen to the agenda in
2005 and 2006) eff orts to centralize Iraq these days focus not on the best possible
structure, but on the most optimal structure. Turkey’s infl uence on the fragmented
groups within Iraqi society, its eff orts to bring together Iraq’s neighbors around
a common platform, its persuasive diplomacy over the USA, and its principled
relationship with the Iraqi government have all played an unprecedented role in
these eff orts.
In 2007, Turkey’s primary concerns over Iraq concentrated on two issues: fi rst,
the rising PKK terror in the region and the likelihood of Northern Iraq becoming
its breeding ground; and secondly, the Iraqi constitution’s Article 140 which had
set the deadline for the referendum in Kirkuk to be held by December of 2007. For
Turkey, the risks in 2007 involved the referendum in Kirkuk and the possibility of
a backlash of internal confl ict, particularly the emergence of a security risk.
Given this context, it was crucial for Turkey to break down this plot in the
making. In light of the political use of the PKK, Turkey had a clear course of action:
building an international and Iraqi coalition and a common stance against
the PKK, and attempting to fi nd a solution that will be acceptable to diff erent
ethnic and sectarian groups in Kirkuk. Today, as was the case by late 2007, it can
be easily said that Turkey has achieved its aims. Moreover, it has become clear
that soft power and military power must be employed in coherence. If these forms
of power are not managed together, even the most successful operation would
bring about damaging results. As a matter of fact, the ascendance of violence during
2006-2007 and its prolongation until October 2007 had a pretty clear target:
Turkey’s multi-dimensional
foreign policy has been fi rmly
established for the past 4-5
years
Turkey’s Foreign Policy Vision: An Assessment of 2007
87
Kirkuk’s rise to the agenda. Th e apparent plan was to set Turkey initially against
the communities in Northern Iraq, and then against the Iraqi government, and
fi nally against the Arab World and America, thus ensuring Turkey’s isolation. Turkey’s
ensuing diplomacy to counter this scheme has been the following. On the
one hand, Turkey legitimized hard power through parliamentary resolution. On
the other hand, Turkey hosted almost all of the regional leaders between September
and December, following the presidential nomination. When the resolution
was approved in parliament, the Syrian President visited Turkey and gave his full
support to Turkey’s possible operations against the PKK. Following the approval,
Turkey engaged in intensive contacts with the Palestinian, Israeli, Jordanian and
Saudi Arabian heads of state, and their supports were secured.
Diplomatic relations between Turkey and Iraq also deepened. Iraqi president
Maliki visited Turkey two times and had phone conversations with the Turkish
Prime Minister many times. At the beginning of 2007, the two shared a normal
level of trust; by the end of 2007, their relationship had developed into full-fl edged
confi dence. Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan took trips all over the region;
he became the fi rst Turkish Foreign Minister to visit Baghdad. Th e Prime Minister’s
contacts should also be situated at the center of these eff orts.
Against the tactics used by the PKK and other forces behind them, Turkey
has gradually drawn the Iraqi government, regional actors, the United States, the
European Union and Sunni-Shiite and Syriac communities in Iraq closer to itself.
Turkey is in contact with all these groups. In sharp contrast to its initial plans of
isolating Turkey, the PKK has become the party being isolated. Th is reversal demonstrates
how diplomacy, soft power, and hard power can be reconciled in the best
and most consistent manner possible. Owing to the correct timing of diplomacy
and military strategy, there was no piece in the Arab or Western media that disfavored
Turkey. Moreover, no state or international organization confronted Turkey
in an open way. Compared to Turkey’s bitter experience in the 1990s, when its
military actions came under heavy international criticism, the recent developments
indicate a remarkable success on Turkey’s part. Turkey’s success in this matter,
however, was not achieved instantly. Turkey’s total performance was based
on a variety of diff erent eff orts, on diff erent levels, all shaped by its new vision. If
this had not been the case, and Turkey had adopted a less cohesive strategy, the
Syrian president would not have chosen the day of the parliamentary resolution
for his visit to Turkey, nor would he have declared his support for the approval of
the resolution while he was in Turkey. Th e U.S. President would have adopted a
AHMET DAVUTOĞLU
88
more critical attitude toward Turkey. In reality, due to the eff ectiveness of Turkey’s
eff orts, everyone has come to understand that losing Turkey would be more costly
than loosing the PKK.
Relations with the United States
Turkish-American relations has a solid geopolitical foundation, a strong historic
background and an institutionalized framework. From geopolitical perspective,
it carries almost all characteristics of a relationship between a continental superpower
and a central country having the most optimal geopolitical position in
Afro-Euroasia. Being a continental power located far from Afro-Eurasia landmass
which contains 80-85% of the global population, with its major energy resources,
cultural fortunes, and trade routes and being a superpower in the international
system are the fundamental dialectic of American foreign policy. A superpower
as such can only retain its status by means of alliances within the Afro-Eurasian
continent. For this reason, since the period of Mahan in 1905, there have been
two major components of the US strategy. First, maintaining an eff ective naval
force. Second, implementing regional strategies based on system of alliances
such as the Cold War era’s containment policy, which makes central countries
of Afro-Euroasia, such as Turkey, vital actors of American strategy. Turkey, as a
middle-size central country, on the other hand, needs the strategic weight of a
continental superpower within the parameters of the internal balances of power
of Afro-Euroasia.
Th e strategic alliance between two countries throughout the Cold War has
strengthened historic and institutional dimensions of this geopolitical foundation.
Th ere was a need for the re-adjustment of this foundation in post-Cold War
era in the 90s due to the radical changes in the international system. When we
analyze the fl ashpoints of world politics and the areas of military confrontation
in the post-Cold War era, we can see an intensifi cation in those regions where
three basic factors intersect: the geopolitical areas of strategic vacuum, geo-economic
transportation routes (including energy transfer), and geo-cultural zones
of encounter. Th e end of bipolarity has created sensitive regions where there is a
vacuum of power needed to control the strategic capabilities of the geopolitical
core areas as well as the vast resource-production-trade capabilities of the international
political economy and ethnic/secterian confrontations. US had to face this
challenge as the superpower of the unipolar system while Turkey, as a country at
the heart of all these sensitive regions, had to respond to the risks they pose.
Turkey’s Foreign Policy Vision: An Assessment of 2007
89
Th e delay in re-adjusting Turkish-
American relations in the new dynamic
international/regional environment in
post-Cold War era made Iraq a critical
litmus test for this strategic relation
because all of these three factors were
directly relevant. Th e war in Iraq was
necessary for American strategists to
reframe regional and global order aft er
9/11. Such a war, on the other hand, was a source of great risks for Turkey from
the perspective of all the three factors. Th e negotiations before the Turkish Parliament’s
rejection of the March 1st motion in 2003 and the developments that
followed created mutual hesitations. Th ese hesitations were not only in the minds
of Americans but also in the minds of Turkish policy makers who had serious
concerns regarding the post-War conditions in Iraq due to the ambiguity of the
American plans. Th e rise of the consolidation and activities of the PKK terror in
northern Iraq aft er the Iraqi invasion has also increased these concerns.
Th e period between March 1st of 2003 and November 5th of 2007 was not a
sudden leap but a process. Both sides have reached certain conclusions in the
process. First of all, the Iraqi territorial integrity and political unity is essential
for the national, regional and global interests of both sides, and common eff orts
are needed in this direction. Th e rising threat of PKK to the stability of Turkey
and Iraq, increasing Turkish role in the reconciliation process in Iraq especially
through the political integration of the Sunni Arab elements, the signifi cance of
the regional engagement in Iraq through the process of neighboring countries
meetings, the interdependency between the situation in Iraq and the regional balance
of power proved the necessity of a joint approach. Secondly, there is a wide
scope of common strategic issues which should not be overshadowed by the disagreements
on individual concerns regarding Iraqi policy, such as stability in the
Middle East, Balkans, Caucasia and Central Asia, energy security, enlargement
of NATO, and fi ghting against terrorism. Th e transformation in the Balkans and
the role of NATO presence in Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina, the completion
of Baku-Tiblisi-Ceyhan energy project in 2006 and other joint energy projects,
the increasing role of Turkey in the Middle East issues especially in Lebanon and
Palestine have demonstrated the need for a much more institutionalized channel
of consultation and cooperation. Th e fact that President Bush and Prime Minister
Erdoğan have consulted on the situation in Darfur in their meeting in October
Turkey now enjoys an image
as a responsible state which
provides order and security to
the region, one that prioritizes
democracy and liberties, while
dealing competently with
security problems at home
AHMET DAVUTOĞLU
90
2006 indicates the diversifi cation of common agenda. Th irdly, there is a need of
new methodology and mechanisms for the readjustment of bilateral strategic relation.
Th e document entitled “Shared Vision and Structured Dialogue to Advance
the Turkish-American Strategic Partnership” declared by the then Foreign Minister
Gόl and Secretary of State Rice in July 2006 refl ected these conclusions and
priorities of both sides as an attempt of re-adjustment of bilateral relations.
Despite this common ground, 2007 was seen by some circles as a year of risk
in the Turkish-American relations at the beginning of the year due to the challenges
of PKK terror and Armenian resolution. Rational approaches on both sides
regarding these issues, however, did not only prevent a turbulence in bilateral
relations, but also prepared the ground for a new era of cooperation based on
frank and constructive consultation. In this sense, the Erdoğan-Bush summit
in November 2007 became a historic turning point. I regard the amelioration of
attitudes and creation of a common ground in Turkish-American relations as a
great achievement in 2007, and a step in the right direction for both parties. Th e
psychological ground on which Turkish-American relations is now moving has
been reconstituted. In this framework, Turkey is no longer a sole alliance nation
whose support is taken for granted, but a signifi cant country with regional and
global infl uence whose strong vision and the proven capacity to make meaningful
contributions need to be taken into account by a healthier communication and a
cooperative dialogue.
Th is new understanding is a natural consequence of Turkey’s foreign policy
performance. For instance, Turkey’s eff orts to integrate the Sunnis into the political
process in Iraq have been the most important success story among the
many other reconciliatory attempts made in the last fi ve years. In consequence,
the United States noticed that Turkey’s unseen soft power cannot be disregarded.
No one was expecting this outcome at that time. Over time, it has also been observed
in relation to Iraq that Turkey’s Iraqi policy does not depend merely on a
bare security refl ex, with all the obstacles that would encumber such a stance. On
the contrary, Turkey has a constructive attitude towards Iraq. Turkey developed
meaningful and rational projects on diverse issues in Iraq including Kirkuk, and
shared those with the Iraqi government, Iraqi groups, Americans and neighboring
countries. As for the Palestinian question, it is imperative to see and appreciate
the picture that Mahmoud Abbas and Shimon Peres exhibited during the Ankara
Forum meetings. All these new structures of relationship are products of Turkey’s
foreign policy performance. Th e United States has recently been making a good
Turkey’s Foreign Policy Vision: An Assessment of 2007
91
assessment of this potential. Against this
background, a Turkish-American alliance
that relies on a solid geopolitical
basis and bears no historical prejudices
can be successfully sustained at diplomatic
and political levels.
Energy Security
Turkey is neither a country that has an excess of energy nor a country that produces
energy. Th anks to the geographical position Turkey enjoys, part of its national
strategy involves facilitating the transit of energy across its territory, which
is central to the East-West energy corridor. Th e most signifi cant oil pipeline project
in this regard, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan, initially travels to the West and later
descends to the south. It connects the trans-Caspian to Turkey and enables Turkish
access to Central Asia. Among Turkey’s mid-term targets is to link Kazakh
oil to this route. Secondly, “Şah Deniz”, a natural gas project that will connect the
energy routes of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey with Greece, will create a new
East-West belt. With the Nabucco gas pipeline project, the Turkish energy corridor
stretching from East to West will be expanded.
Turkey’s energy agreements with Iran go back to 1996. During the present
government’s tenure, there has been no retreat from these energy agreements;
on the contrary, there have been continual eff orts toward improvement. Here all
our allies should take into consideration Turkey’s unique position. As a growing
economy and surrounded by energy resources, Turkey needs Iranian energy as a
natural extension of its national interests. Th erefore, Turkey’s energy agreements
with Iran cannot be dependent upon its relationships with other countries.
It is oft en claimed that energy projects engaging Iran and other neighbors
bypass and upset Russia. To the contrary, the route that extends from the Blue
Stream in the North and to the Eastern Mediterranean, through Aqaba, and all
those routes that descend from the North to the South actually safeguard Russia’s
interests. With that in mind, it is important to manage the East-West routes
in a way that takes the interest of international community into consideration.
Looking to the future, another route that is less anticipated but that could become
important in the future is a potential South-North route that would carry Arab
natural gas through Egypt-Syria-Jordan. Secondly, the most optimum transit corridor
for oil and natural gas for Iraqi energy resources would be a route over Ana-
Turkey is now a country that
has original thoughts extending
from Ankara to Pakistan, Saudi
Arabia to Latin America
AHMET DAVUTOĞLU
92
tolia to the East Mediterranean, Europe
or Black Sea. Parallel to this, another
potential project to consider seriously in
the future is the transit of oil and natural
gas from the Gulf to Europe in a South-
North direction. Carrying liquefi ed
natural gas (LNG) from a risky region
like the Gulf to the European markets has tremendous risks, especially due to the
unstable balance of power in the Gulf.
Turkey’s national interest lies in the proper utilization of its geography. Here,
what disappoints and surprises us is the EU’s inability to grasp this vision. Some
Europeans seem to have this thought in mind: the Turkish state and its people are
not European but Turkey’s geography is freely open to European use. Such logic
does not provide a solid ground for managing Turkish-European relations. Th e
fact that the countries most opposed to Turkey’s integration into the EU are also
those that hold high expectations for these energy projects is a great contradiction.
Th e EU will comprehend this fact at some point. Turkey is patiently waiting
for the EU to appreciate its indispensable position with regard to energy security,
cultural politics and transit routes. When they acknowledge Turkey’s value
in these terms, they will realize that Europe’s global power can only be attained
through Turkey’s full integration into Europe. Turkey shares common interests
with Russia, Iran, and the United States for the successful operation of natural
gas and oil pipelines that run in various directions through the Turkish territory.
Hence, Turkish analysts try to combine all these interests in one single picture.
Th is is a rational calculation, not an ideological account. Turkey’s relations with
Iran will continue, and eff orts will be made to preserve its understanding with
Russia, based on mutual interest. As far as cooperation with the United States in
the fi eld of energy concerns, the joint projects on the Trans-Caspian as well as
strategic approach for energy security in global economy will be maintained in
the most eff ective way.
The European Union and Cyprus
Four processes are crucial for putting Turkey’s relations with the EU on the
right track. First is Turkey’s integration process into the EU. Because this has been
a process of modernization and reform for domestic transformation, it is impor-
As a growing economy
and surrounded by energy
resources, Turkey needs Iranian
energy as a natural extension of
its national interests
Turkey’s Foreign Policy Vision: An Assessment of 2007
93
tant for Turkey to pursue it independently,
even if the EU freezes all its relations
with Turkey. Th e Turkish government
has shown its will to do this. It declared
at the beginning of 2007 that it would
do so until 2013. Th is determination on
Turkey’s part could not be implemented
much in 2007. Why? When this declaration
came to the fore in February, it meant that Turkey will continue to pursue
progress in the reform process without becoming discouraged by the suspension
of eight chapters because of Cyprus question. Aft er making this declaration of its
strong will to move forward along the road of accession, however, Turkey became
entangled in domestic political issues. Th e year was marked by presidential elections,
parliamentary elections, and a surge of PKK terror. In spite of these events,
the reform process did not stop and some progress was made. International attention
turned to Turkey, as many expected a crisis in April and May. Th e ‘sick man’
image again rose to the fore. In Europe, Turkey’s critics considered the situation
as strengthening their hands. Th ey were not expecting Turkey to overcome the
crisis so easily. Yet Turkey’s successful handling of the crisis ultimately served only
to increase trust in Turkey; even the French elections could not have a negative
impact on this confi dence. It is now time for Turkey to acknowledge its success in
this matter and to step forward in its revision of the constitution. Th is and other
reforms should be realized independently of the voices in Europe.
Th e second process involves a technical dimension, namely relations with the
EU Commission. Turkey has not had a serious problem with the Commission
since November 2005. On a technical level, the opening of negotiation chapters
and the following of this process was successful. Six chapters are opened, one is
closed and two are waiting. Education and culture is one of them. Th e technical
process is going smoothly since the Commission’s behavior is based on objective
criteria. Turkey’s real problem is the political negotiations at the level of the
European Council, which constitute the third necessary process. Whatever steps
Turkey takes toward improving its record, some actors would continue to set obstacles
before Turkey, which will slow down the process. Th ey consider the political
process as an opportunity to exploit for their own benefi t.
Th e fourth process is in the strategic dimension. Th e integration process and
its component reforms are prerequisites. However, a strategic vision is necessary
Turkey is patiently waiting
for the EU to appreciate its
indispensable position with
regard to energy security,
cultural politics and transit
routes
AHMET DAVUTOĞLU
94
to guarantee Turkey’s future in Europe. If
there is a defi cit in this vision, it will not
be possible to overcome the resistance
of certain countries. During the last EU
summit, a play of words led to ambiguity
over Turkey’s participation, and we were
not part of this setting. If Turkey were to
respond harshly to the negative developments,
as was expected by some circles
in Europe, relations would have been suspended by now. Th e process continues
in a critical way, largely due to developments in Europe, beyond our own control.
We have had a paradoxical situation as far as the domestic setting in France and
Germany is concerned. During periods when the Turkish-EU relations were on
a smooth path, actors critical of Turkey were in power in France and Germany.
When Turkey’s integration with the EU was going through diffi cult times, actors
close to Turkey dominated the political scene in these countries.
Nevertheless, the trauma expected to aff ect Turkish-EU relations aft er French
elections did not materialize. Th is is due to the fact that a dialogue channel was
established between the leaders of the two countries. Th is diplomatic channel of
dialogue remains open and provides continuous contact between Turkey and
France. Turkey made clear to the French administration that their approach of
seeking good bilateral relations and cooperation in regional aff airs while setting
obstacles to Turkey on the European level is not acceptable. Turkey’s policy has
three components in regard to relations not only with France but also with all
other European countries. Th ese are bilateral relations, EU-level relations, and
regional/global relations. None of them can be compromised at the expense of
the other. It is not possible to cooperate with an actor in the Middle East, which
is simultaneously pursuing a critical stance toward Turkey at the EU level. Turkey
will not allow such a problematic form of relationship to develop in its dealings
with France and other countries.
A major reason why the French acted prudently was their appreciation of the
weight of democratic process in Turkey. Moreover, they also came to understand
that if Turkish-French relations evolved in a positive direction, there would be
great potential for cooperation in many areas especially in the Middle East. Turkey
is in this geography and will stay here. Countries that wish to have an active role in
this geography should take Turkey seriously into consideration with all its weight.
Turkey shares common
interests with Russia, Iran,
and the United States for the
successful operation of natural
gas and oil pipelines that run in
various directions through the
Turkish territory
Turkey’s Foreign Policy Vision: An Assessment of 2007
95
Turkey cannot demand EU membership
from a position of waiting outside
the door. We need to undertake diplomatic
initiatives to prepare the ground
and foster the psychological atmosphere to achieve this goal. It is important to
take stock of the new situation; the EU has changed the process to a technical and
routine one due to the suspension of eight chapters. Nevertheless, the process is
continuing between technical teams. Th e last EU progress report was both appreciative
and critical of the current developments in Turkey. Such assessments of
the reform process are necessary and it is pointless to oppose them. Th ey indicate
what to do and their purpose is to expedite Turkey’s smooth progress toward integration.
Th e section of the Progress Report, however, contained a misguided interpretation
about Cyprus. No new and comprehensive peace for Cyprus is on the horizon
under the current conditions. Greek Cypriots are aware of this situation and
they try to strengthen their position within the EU accordingly. Turkey has sought
every possible way to explain its just position. One possible way to persuade the
EU would be to capitalize on Turkey’s increasing strategic weight. A second policy
could be to intensify the exchanges of Northern Cyprus with other actors so that
it is increasingly integrated to outside world. Indeed, 2007 was a good year for
Northern Cyprus, and four openings now present themselves. Th e fi rst is in the
Council of Europe. Th e second is the opening of trade offi ces in Gulf countries.
Th e third is the start of mutual sea cruises to Syria’s Lazkiye port. And the fourth
is the offi cial state visits. President Talat has been received as head of state in Pakistan.
Th e OIC General Secretary and OIC teams visited Northern Cyprus with
offi cial status. Promisingly, the economic gap between the North Cyprus and the
South has decreased. A point may come when it may be necessary to persuade
the Northern Cypriots to unify with the South, for their recognition by the international
community and growing standards of life in the North will remove the
rationale for doing so. Th eir conditions are indeed improving.
Conclusion
First of all, Turkey needs to deepen and enrich its democracy, accommodate
the diff erences within its society, and strengthen the coordination and balance
within its institutions in 2008 and the years that follow. In this way, Turkey’s internal
situation will be considered an asset by external actors. Furthermore, Turkey
should avoid crises like the ones that occurred in April and May of 2007,
Strategic vision is necessary to
guarantee Turkey’s future in
Europe
AHMET DAVUTOĞLU
96
which undermined the country’s image
and reputation outside. Secondly, Turkey
needs to deepen its participation
in regional matters. Specifi cally, Turkey
should contribute to peace, security, and
prosperity in its region. Obviously, Turkey
would benefi t from such a positive
environment; working toward it would
raise Turkey to an internationally proactive
position. Th is elevation could occur via Turkey’s implementation of energy,
transportation, and cultural policies. Turkey could pursue a more infl uential policy
line in international politics aft er asserting itself in its regional setting. When
these principles take roots, the relations with the United States will be pursued in
a more mutually benefi cial and meaningful way and the relations with the EU will
have a stronger base. Aft er all, Turkey is the rising actor in the region and will be
sensitive to the concerns of other regional players. In that respect, it will develop
a balanced relationship with Russia. Th e activities of civil society and Turkish
intellectuals will contribute to the attainment of those common goals. Turkey’s
engagements from Chile to Indonesia, from Africa to Central Asia, and from EU
to OIC will be part of a holistic approach to foreign policy. Th ese initiatives will
make Turkey a global actor as we approach 2023, the one hundredth anniversary
of the establishment of the Turkish republic.
Turkey needs to deepen
and enrich its democracy,
accommodate the diff erences
within its society, and
strengthen the coordination
and balance within its
institutions

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