Turkish Foreign Policy in the New Millennium

by Hüseyin Isıksal (Volume editor) Ozan Örmeci (Volume editor)
©2015 Edited Collection XXII, 730 Pages


In recent years there has been an increased public and academic interest in the new activism within Turkish foreign policy and Turkey's search for a more ambitious role. This book represents a new outlook, perception and conceptualization on Turkish Foreign Policy and offers contributions from various experts in their fields. The volume includes over forty chapters that cover ten area-based analyses including Turkey's relations with the EU, the Middle East, Cyprus and the US, the Balkans, the Mediterranean, Central Asia, Latin America, the Far East and International Organizations.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Dedication
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction
  • Part One: Patterns of Continuity & Change in Turkish Foreign Policy
  • Turkish Foreign Policy
  • Turkish Foreign Policy during the AKP Era
  • Internal Dynamics of the Turkish Foreign Policy in the 2000s
  • “New Turkey” in the Context of “Moderate Islam”
  • Part Two: Turkey-Middle East Relations
  • The Impact of the Arab Spring on Turkey’s Role and Relations in the Middle East
  • The Securitization of the Syrian Crisis in Turkey: What lies beneath a “threat construction”?
  • Turkish Foreign Policy Gripped by the Change and Differentiating Position of the Kurdish Regional Government
  • Turkey-Iran Relations during Ahmadinejad Presidency (2005-2013)
  • Part Three: Turkey-Iran-Israel Triangle
  • International Fluctuations and Domestic Limitations: Turkish-Israeli Relations in the New Millennium
  • Turkish-Israeli Relations: Opportunities and Threats
  • A Geopolitical Eurasian Swamp between Turkey and Central Asia: Iran
  • The Approach of Turkey on the Internationalising Iranian Nuclear Question
  • Part Four: Turkey-European Union Relations
  • Turkey-EU Relations
  • How to Negotiate With EU?
  • Turkey’s PKK Problem and Turkey-EU Relations: The Case of Netherlands
  • 2013: A New Opportunity to Rebuild EU-Turkey Relations?
  • Part Five: Turkish Foreign Policy and Cyprus
  • The Four Stages of Turkish Position in Cyprus: The Elements of Continuity and Change
  • Chaos Theory and Turkish Foreign Policy: An Analysis of Turkey’s proactive Cyprus Policy during the AKP Administration
  • Cyprus Dispute in terms of Energy Politics
  • Discourse analysis of Turkey’s Role on the Reliability of Turkish Cypriot Politicians through external inter-positioning
  • Part Six: Turkey and the Balkans, Euro-Mediterranean Region & Black Sea Region
  • Turkey-Greece Relations in the New Millennium
  • Turkish Decision-Making and the Balkans: Implications of Role Theory
  • Turkey and the Euro-Mediterranean: Geopolitics & Geo-economics at Crossroads
  • Turkey as a Stabiliser in the Black Sea Basin
  • Part Seven: Turkey-Caucasus & Central Asia Relations
  • Turkey-Azerbaijan Relations in the 21st Century
  • Turkish-Armenian Relations and Armenian Genocide Claims: Armenian Population in Eastern Anatolia in the First World War
  • Pipelines Diplomacy in Turkey-Russian Federation Relations
  • An Assessment of the Pipeline Project for the Transportation of Caspian Basin Hydrocarbons within the Context of Energy Strategies of the United States, the Russian Federation, and Turkey
  • Part Eight: Turkey-USA Relations
  • Turkey-USA Relations
  • The Recent State of Affairs in Turkish-American Relations: Before and After the “Model Partnership”
  • Anti-American Reflections of the Arab Spring in Turkey
  • Alliance Re-Set? The Course of U.S.-Turkish Relations Post-2012 Elections
  • Part Nine: Turkey-America & Far East Relations
  • The Canadian-Turkish Relations: Present Status and New Prospects
  • Turkey and Latin America: A New Horizon of a Strategic Relationship
  • Turkish-Chinese Relations
  • Turkish-Japanese Relations: A Descriptive Assessment
  • Part Ten: Turkey & International Organizations
  • Turkey and NATO
  • IMF and World Bank Group: Structure, Implementations, Relations with Turkey and Examples for Structural Changes
  • Turkey-Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) Relations
  • Overview of Relations between Turkey and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)
  • Conclusion

← xx | 1 → Ozan Örmeci*


This book project, Turkish Foreign Policy in the New Millennium, emerged in the summer of 2013, first as a collection of articles we published in the website of our foreign policy initiative International Political Academy (Uluslararası Politika Akademisi-UPA).1 Soon after, with the success of our website, many Turkish and international academics specializing in Turkish Foreign Policy, wrote emails to us showing their willingness to join the project and began to send their articles to take part in the book. Thus, towards the end of 2013, the project turned into a serious academic book on Turkish Foreign Policy. Many promising young and valuable experienced academicians contributed to this book by writing original articles on different aspects and topics of Turkish Foreign Policy. Although there are writers having different ideological perspectives in the book, the common point of all articles is that they aim to guide Turkey to have a liberal democratic system by sustaining its Western integration and to help regional actors to provide peace and stability.

New activism concerning the Turkish Foreign Policy in the recent years naturally expanded the academic research addressing Turkey and Turkish Foreign Policy. In order to contribute to this trend with a new outlook, perception, conceptualizations, design and energy, we edited this new volume under the name of Turkish Foreign Policy in the New Millennium. The book particularly welcomed and provided opportunity for the young academics that are looking forward a quality platform on freely presenting their ideas and analysis. In consequence, arguably, the broadest possible forum for evaluating and questioning the Turkish Foreign Policy in the new millennium put together in this remarkable study including the areas that are not fully covered before within the same volume.

The first chapter of the book is called as the “Patterns of Continuity and Change in Turkish Foreign Policy”. It starts with the article of retired Turkish diplomat and parliamentarian Onur Öymen, which provides an excellent short history of Turkish Foreign Policy. The second article in this chapter is written by Hüseyin Işıksal and it discusses main issues of Turkish Foreign Policy in Justice and Development Party (JDP) era with an analytical perspective. The third article in this chapter is written by Hakan Mehmet Kiriş and Yasemen Kiriş Yatağan and it analyzes the internal dynamics of Turkish Foreign Policy and questions the reasons for change in the JDP era. The fourth and last article in this chapter is written by Deniz Tansi ← 1 | 2 → and it provides a critical look to Turkish Foreign Policy and so-called “moderate Islam” model.

The second chapter of the book is called the “Turkey-Middle East Relations” and as it is obvious from its name, it discusses Turkey’s relations to Middle Eastern countries in the early years of 21st century. The chapter begins with Oğuzhan Göksel’s article, which discusses Turkey’s role during the so-called Arab Spring process in the Middle Eastern region. The second article in this chapter is written by Panagiotis Andrikopoulos and it focuses on Turkish Foreign Policy vis-à-vis Syrian crisis and civil war. The third article in this chapter article is written by Göktürk Tüysüzoğlu and it analyzes Turkey’s relations with Kurdish regional government in northern Iraq. The last article in this chapter belongs to Yüksel Kamacı and it analyzes Turkish-Iran relations in Ahmadinejad’s Presidency.

The third chapter of the book is named as “Turkey-Iran-Israel Triangle”. It starts with the article of Harriet Fildes about the characteristics and main events in Turkish-Israeli relations in recent years. The chapter continues with the article of Deniz Tansi, which is about the threats and opportunities concerning Turkish-Israeli relations. The third article in this chapter is based Timuçin Kodaman and Haktan Birsel’s views on Islamic Republic of Iran as a geopolitical swamp between Turkey and Central Asia. The last article of this chapter is written by Sina Kısacık and it provides analysis of Turkey’s look towards Iranian nuclear program.

The fourth chapter in the book is named as “Turkey-European Union Relations” and as it is obvious from its name, it focuses on the relations between Turkey and the EU in the last years. The first article in this chapter is written by Enver Gülseven and it focuses on contemporary Turkish-EU relations. The second article in this chapter is written by Kader Sevinç and it provides a new strategic approach to Turkey’s negotiations with the EU. The third article in this chapter belongs to Armand Sağ and it discusses PKK problem in relation to Turkish-EU and Turkey-Netherlands relations. The last article in this chapter is written by Laura Batalla and it provides a good summary of recent events in bilateral relations.

The fifth chapter of the book is called the “Turkish Foreign Policy and Cyprus” and it discusses Cyprus Dispute and its effect on Turkish Foreign Policy. The chapter begins with the excellent piece of Hüseyin Işıksal about the four stages of Turkish Foreign Policy in Cyprus. The second article is written by Devrim Şahin and it applies chaos theory to analyze the influence of EU accession process on Turkey’s Cyprus policy. The third article in this chapter belongs to Ozan Örmeci and it analyzes Cyprus Dispute from an energy politics based perspective. The last article of this chapter is written by Ali Üncü and it questions and makes a discourse analysis of Turkey’s role on the reliability of Turkish Cypriot politicians through external inter-positioning.

The sixth chapter of the book is on “Turkey and the Balkans, Euro-Mediterranean Region & Black Sea Region”. The chapter starts with the piece of Hüseyin Işıksal on contemporary Turkish-Greek relations. The second article of the chapter is written by İbrahim Alper Arısoy and it provides a new look to Turkish-Euro-Mediterranean relations. The third article is Didem Ekinci’s piece on Turkey and ← 2 | 3 → the Balkans, which discusses the implications of role theory. The last article of the chapter is provided by Göktürk Tüysüzoğlu and it presents a detailed analysis of Turkey’s stabilizer role in the Black Sea region.

The seventh chapter of the book “Turkey-Caucasus & Central Asia Relations” focuses on a relatively unknown part of Turkish Foreign Policy; Caucasus and Central Asia. The chapter begins with the work of Uğur Sönmez Özlü on Turkish-Azerbaijani relations in 21st century. The second article of the chapter is written by Ata Atun and it makes an original contribution to the very controversial 1915 events and “Armenian genocide” claims as well as their effects on Turkish Foreign Policy. The third article in this chapter is Burcu Kanbal’s work on Turkish-Russian relations from a pipeline-diplomacy perspective. The last article of the chapter is Sina Kısacık and Tülin Avcı’s excellent piece on Turkey’s role in the energy politics of Caucasian and Central Asian regions.

The eighth chapter of the book is “Turkey-USA Relations”. The chapter begins with the valuable piece of Ali Çınar. The second article is Ömer Kurtbağ’s excellent study on Turkish-US relations with a particular focus on the concept of “Model Partnership”. The third article in this chapter is written by Ozan Örmeci and it presents a detailed analysis of anti-American reflections of the Arab Spring in the Turkish media. The last piece in this chapter is written by Leslie Esbrook and it discusses what to expect of Turkish-US relations after the re-election of American President Barack Obama.

The ninth chapter of the book is called as “Turkey-America & Far East Relations”. The first article of this chapter is an original piece provided by Fadi F. Elhusseini on Turkish-Canadian relations. The second article is Ariel S. González Levaggi’s work on developing Turkish-Latin American relations. The third article of the chapter is Giray Fidan’s valuable piece on developing Turkish-Chinese relations. The fourth and last article of this chapter is written by Hakan Gönen and Kubilay Atik on Turkish-Japanese relations.

The tenth and last chapter of the book is “Turkey & International Organizations”. The chapter starts with Ali Oğuz Diriöz’s article on Turkey-NATO relations. The second article in this chapter is Anıl Kemal Aktaş and Berkin Şafak Şener’s original work on Turkish-IMF and Turkish-World Bank relations. The third article of the chapter is is Sejla Yusufovic’s piece on Turkey and Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) relations. The last article of this chapter and the book Ali Oğuz Diriöz’s original piece on relations between Turkey and the Gulf Cooperation Organization (GCC). The book ends with the Conclusion chapter written by Hüseyin Işıksal.

The book provides a new, original, and updated approach to Turkish Foreign Policy in the times of “shift of axis” discussions. Without doubt, Turkey is one of the most important international actors in its geography. Turkish democracy will pose some risks in the near future because of the increasing secular-Islamist polarization within the country as well as the separatist Kurdish opposition. The country’s fate will be drawn mostly by the elections to take place in 2014 (Presidential elections) and 2015 (general elections) which requires a special focus. These two ← 3 | 4 → elections will probably design Turkey’s political preferences in the early 21st century. Possible Republican People’s Party (RRP) government or a coalition led by RPP could direct Turkey towards its classical Western orbit that will bring more efforts and optimism for the full EU membership, or the JDP government could continue to venture in the Middle East and further Islamize the regime by using increasingly authoritarian methods. No matter which side prevails and what happens, this is for sure that Turkey has a very specific role in the world as a country between the West and the East, Europe and Asia, Africa and Caucasus and should never be forced to make a strategic choice that will destroy this unique position. This could be done only if Turkey, without performing infidelity to her classical allies (NATO and the West), could diversify its economic and political relations with other countries and assume a “moderating role” between the opposing camps.

Finally, it must be noted that the articles in this book pose a clear example of Turkey’s fluctuation in its foreign policy because of the unavoidable effects of its geography as well as the governmental preferences. It is a visible fact that Turkey made bold steps after 2002 to transform itself into an efficient market state and a working democracy, but the country’s Western orientation (EU integration process that started in 1999 with the Helsinki Summit during the Foreign Ministry of İsmail Cem and relations with the USA) in its foreign policy also weakened in this process. This is mainly because of the growing tone of Islamism in every aspect of Turkish political and social life. The problems that Turkey has been facing in its bid for the full EU membership may direct the country to other alternatives in the following years. Thus, this book should be accepted as a first step to analyze Turkey’s new search for geopolitical and geostrategic alternatives in the early years of the new millennium.

Ozan Örmeci, Kyrenia, April 2014

*Assist. Prof. Dr., Head of Political Science and Public Administration Department at Girne American University.

1Please see; http://www.politikaakademisi.org.

← 4 | 5 → Part One

Patterns of Continuity & Change in Turkish Foreign Policy ← 5 | 6 →

← 6 | 7 → Onur Öymen*

Turkish Foreign Policy

Abstract: This article summarizes the basic principles of the Turkish Foreign Policy and provides the brief historical evaluation of the main challenges and opportunities that shapes the Turkish Foreign Policy.

Keywords: Turkish Foreign Policy, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Kemalist Foreign Policy.

Turkish Foreign Policy has been influenced throughout history not only by her strategic location and the dynamics of her society, but also by the aspirations and interests of the major powers of the world. Indeed, Turkey has often been mentioned as a bridge between Europe and Asia, between Eastern and Western cultures.

The Ottoman Empire, founded in the territory of today’s Turkey, at the very beginning of the 14th century, became one of the largest and most influential empires of Europe and the Middle East in less than two centuries. The conquest of Istanbul by the Turks in 1453 was considered by historians of the world as marking the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of a New Age. Particularly during the period of Suleiman the Magnificent, the Ottoman Empire reached its apogee and dominated the entire Balkan Peninsula, Hungary and part of Austria up to the doorsteps of Vienna. She extended her territories to the Middle East and North Africa as well. It was an era of competition and confrontation among the major European powers. Like other empires, the Ottomans tried to influence world politics of the time. During the following centuries, however, Ottoman territories shrank as a result of wars and the foreign policy intrigues of her opponents. Towards the end of the 19th century, the major powers of Europe referred to Ottoman Empire as the “sick man of Europe” and engaged in political maneuvers among them to share her territories. They presented themselves as protectors of Christian minorities and tried to interfere in the internal affairs of the Ottoman State. In spite of all this, the Ottoman Empire was a major European power on the eve of World War I.

The Ottoman Empire entered the First World War as an ally of Germany. Although she fought successfully in the Dardanelles and on several other fronts, at the end of the war she was one of the biggest losers. She lost large territories and an important part of her population. A number of countries have emerged from the former lands of what was once the Ottoman Empire. The Treaty of Sevres imposed on the Ottoman Empire by the Allied powers was one of the cruelest treaties ← 7 | 8 → concluded after the war. The territories left to Turkey by Sevres were only a small part of the Anatolian peninsula; the remaining lands were to be shared by the winners of the war. The Turkish Straits would be put under the control of foreign countries. The economy would be supervised by major European powers. Ethnic Kurdish and Armenian groups were promised independent territories and the protection of Christian minorities would be secured by foreign countries. This treaty was rejected and never implemented by the national forces that fought a successful war of liberation under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk against the Greek army invading large parts of Anatolia with the support and encouragement of major European countries.

The new Turkish Parliament founded in 1920 in Ankara, negotiated and concluded with success the Treaty of Lausanne, which was the only document signed after the First World War where a loser of the Great War was able to negotiate and conclude a Peace Treaty with the winners of the War on equal footing, under equal conditions and respecting each other’s sovereign rights. Turkey was able to achieve most of her basic goals in Lausanne. The Lausanne Treaty had established the borders of Turkey and solved, to a large extent, the Turkish Straits issue. Moreover, the Treaty found a solution to the question of minorities and eliminated the capitulations that had made the Ottoman Empire economically dependent on other countries. More importantly, it established a new order whereby the new Turkish State was recognized as the representative of the Turkish people, having equal sovereign rights with other nations of the world. Some issues were left open in Lausanne, like the drawing of the Turkish-Iraqi border and the future status of Hatay province near Syria, which were solved later.

The foreign policy of the new Turkish State was shaped on the basis of principles defended in Lausanne by the Turkish Delegation under the chairmanship of İsmet İnönü. After Lausanne and the proclamation of the Turkish Republic in 1923, Turkey adopted a peaceful policy aiming at friendly cooperation with all countries of the region and the world. Turkey declared from the outset that she would have no territorial claims, but she would be determined to defend her territories and interests against any aggression. Atatürk’s motto “Peace in the country, peace in the world” reflects the basic philosophy of Turkish Foreign Policy implemented since then. Another important pillar of Turkish Foreign Policy has been “full independence”. Atatürk had rejected any foreign interference in the shaping of Turkish Foreign Policy and other national political decisions. The principle of full equality with other nations has been carefully observed. A few months after the signing of Lausanne Treaty, Turkey founded a modern republic and embarked on a comprehensive reform program. She adopted the Latin alphabet instead of Arabic and all basic laws had been changed to be in line with the most modern legislation of Western countries. Gender equality, European way of dressing and the Gregorian calendar were all adopted. Turkey granted women rights to vote and to be elected in parliamentary elections 11 years prior to them being granted by France. Most importantly, the constitution and the administrative system were formed in line with modern democratic countries and in a short period of time, secularism ← 8 | 9 → became the backbone of the state. Thus, Turkey emerged as the first and so far the only secular democracy among countries with predominantly Muslim population. The motto of the Republic was: “The sovereignty belongs to the people without any conditions”. Such unprecedented reforms gave Turkey a very high profile in the West and in the region. Leaders of countries like Iran and Afghanistan considered Turkey as a model and a source of inspiration. Turkey, with this new image, started to establish close ties with a number of countries. In 1926, she signed an agreement with Britain, solving the Turkish-Iraqi border problem. She concluded a Balkan Pact with Greece and Serbia in 1934. She signed Sadabat Pact with Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. These two pacts created a better security environment in the Western and Eastern neighborhood of Turkey.

The Montreux Convention signed in 1936 improved in a just and lasting way, the conditions adopted in the Lausanne Treaty on the Turkish Straights and provided better sovereign rights for Turkey. The Lausanne Treaty and The Montreux Convention are among very few international agreements that were concluded before World War II that are still in force. During the first years of independence, Turkey established a balance in her relations with Western countries and the Soviet Union. She signed a mutual assistance treaty with France and Britain to contain Mussolini’s expansionist policies in the region. Turkish-Soviet relations and cooperation developed on the basis of mutual respect and non-interference in each other’s internal affairs. In that period, Turkey, with her reforms and achievements became a source of inspiration for the leaders of regional countries. The Turkish policy of peace has also been appreciated by former enemies like Greece. Greek Prime Minister Venizelos, impressed by the policies of peace and friendship of Atatürk, had proposed him as a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1934. During these years, Turkey hosted leading professors of German universities who were oppressed and discriminated by the Nazis. A large number of German professors of Jewish origin or political opponents of the Nazi regime came to Turkey to teach at Turkish universities.

During the last years of Atatürk’s life, Turkey, using masterfully the tools of diplomacy, forced France who was a mandatory power, to give independence to Hatay (Alexandrette) province despite her initial intention to annex this territory to Syria. The wish of Atatürk to see Hatay join Turkey, a target set already in the early 1920s would be accomplished shortly after his death. When Atatürk died in 1938, a French journalist qualified him as “probably the only statesman that died with no enemies in the world”. After his death, his close friend and former general, a hero of the war of liberation and chief of the Turkish delegation at the Lausanne Conference, İsmet İnönü was elected as President of the Republic. He had the very delicate task of keeping Turkey a neutral country during the war, despite strong pressure from Churchill and Roosevelt. Thanks to this policy of neutrality, Turkey and the Turkish people suffered practically no damage during World War II, while more than 60 million people perished all around the world.

After the War, during the Yalta and Potsdam Conferences, Stalin, then a respected ally of Western powers, claimed territories in Eastern Turkey and proposed to ← 9 | 10 → change the Montreux Convention to get the right to control the Turkish Straits. Turkey, who was practically alone at this point, resisted Soviet demands and expressed a strong will to defend her independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty. Turkish forces played an active role during the Korean War in 1950, where they suffered 730 casualties, second only to American forces. Shortly after the beginning of the Cold War, Turkey joined Western organizations like the European Economic Cooperation (OECE) in 1948 and the Council of Europe in 1949. She joined NATO in 1952 and signed an Association Agreement with the aim of full membership with the EEC (later the European Union) in 1963. During the Cold War period, Turkey controlled practically 30 % of the borders between NATO and Warsaw Pact countries. She provided a valuable deterrent and intelligence capabilities to NATO. During this period, Turkish Foreign Policy had to take into account NATO’s general positions.

Turkish-Greek relations deteriorated in 1955 as a result of Greek terrorist activities in Cyprus. After that period, Turkey had a delicate policy of balancing NATO requirements and her conflicting interests with Greece in the Aegean and in Cyprus. As a matter of fact, the two countries have had long standing divergences in the Aegean Sea like territorial waters, air space, continental shelf and the demilitarized status of the islands. The implementation of the contractual rights and privileges of the Turkish minority in Greece and the Greek minority in Turkey were also conflicting issues. None of these problems have been resolved thus far. After the conclusion of a treaty between Turkey, Greece and the United Kingdom in 1960, establishing an independent state in Cyprus, Turkish-Greek relations had been normalized for some time. But following the attacks of Greek Cypriots against Turks at the end of 1963 and the expulsion of Turkish Cypriots from the government, parliament and the administration of Cyprus, a new and more serious period of tension started between the two countries. In 1964, when the Turkish government was preparing to embark on a military intervention in Cyprus to stop the attacks of the Greek Cypriots, American President Lyndon Johnson sent a strongly worded letter to Turkey aiming to discourage the Turkish Government from military intervention, claiming that in case of a Soviet attack against Turkey, following Turkish military operations in Cyprus, NATO countries might not feel obliged to come to the defense of Turkey according to Article Five of the NATO Treaty. This created bitter feelings in Turkey and forced her to reconsider some of her foreign policy assumptions and assessments.

Afterwards, Turkey gave priority to developing her national defense industries and tried to follow a multi-dimensional foreign policy aimed at defending, in the best possible way, her political and economic interests. She improved her relations with Muslim countries, joined the Organization of Islamic Conference in 1969, developed stronger diplomatic and economic relations with Arab countries and increased her economic and industrial cooperation with the Soviet Union. In 1974, the Greek military junta who had taken power in Athens a few years before instigated a military coup in Cyprus to overthrow President Makarios. They replaced him with Nikos Samson, a notorious terrorist and one of the leaders of the ← 10 | 11 → EOKA terror organization. Obviously, the aim of the coup was to unite Cyprus with Greece and to force Turkish Cypriots to leave the Island or to live as a minority with limited rights. The Turkish government, led by the Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit tried to persuade Prime Minister Harold Wilson of Great Britain for a joint intervention in Cyprus. Britain was not willing to accept it. Then, Turkey decided to intervene alone using her rights granted by the London and Zurich Agreements. In 2004, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan proposed a plan for the settlement of the Cyprus issue to be submitted for the approval of Turkish and Greek Cypriots separately. This plan would provide fewer advantages to Turkish Cypriots compared to the 1960 agreements. Still, Turkish Cypriots accepted it, but Greek Cypriots rejected it. Despite this rejection, Greek Cypriots have been accepted to the EU as a full member.

During these turbulent periods, successive Turkish governments followed the foreign policy principles laid down in the early days of the republic. On a number of issues, Turkey was considered a reliable partner by countries of the region. For example, during the Iran-Iraq war, Turkey remained neutral and she was asked by the two governments to represent Iranian interests in Baghdad and Iraqi interests in Teheran. This was a very rare situation in the history of international relations. Turkey was also elected as the permanent president of the Economic and Social Committee of the Islamic Conference. At the end of 1995, a new crisis happened in the Aegean. After a shipwreck on the shores of an uninhabited Islet very close to Turkey, Kardak, the Greek navy landed troops claiming that Kardak belongs to Greece. In no international document was this islet given to Greece and according to the Lausanne Treaty, the fate of such islets should be decided by interested countries. After the failure of diplomatic initiatives, Turkey was left with no choice but to send troops to a neighboring island to show her determination not to accept this as fait accompli. Finally, Greece withdrew her troops and the status quo remained in force.

After the end of the Cold War, Turkey adapted her foreign policy to the new conditions prevailing in the world. She improved her relations with Muslim countries; she had already joined the Islamic Conference in 1969, developed stronger diplomatic and economic relations with Arab countries and increased her economic and industrial cooperation with Russia. She started an extensive assistance program for Central Asian countries and participated in NATO operations in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan. She established new economic and political ties with African countries. She supported Azerbaijan, who suffered an Armenian invasion and lost 20 % of her territories with one million inhabitants displaced. She actively participated in the efforts of the Minsk Group to find a peaceful agreement to the Nagorno-Karabakh issue between Azerbaijan and Armenia. She also supported the legitimate rights of the Palestinians. During the First and Second Gulf Wars, Turkey had not been militarily engaged in combat, but had spent diplomatic efforts to find solutions. She also provided shelter and humanitarian assistance to more than 400,000 Iraqi refugees escaping to Turkey from Saddam Hussein’s forces. She also accommodated more than 150,000 Syrian refugees who fled to Turkey as a result ← 11 | 12 → of severe internal fighting. In March 2003, the Turkish Parliament rejected American demands to open a front from Turkey into Iraq on the grounds that the Turkish Constitution permits the invitation of foreign troops onto Turkish soil only in cases of international legitimacy. Since there was no explicit UN Security Council resolution permitting international military action against Iraq, any authorization from the Turkish Parliament would have been unconstitutional. Obviously, this decision of the Turkish Parliament disappointed American authorities and Turkish-American relations have been negatively affected for a while.

Turkey has had difficulties in her relations with the European Union. The membership negotiations which started on October 3rd, 2005 have suffered unnecessary delays. Turkey has been able so far to open for negotiations only 13 chapters out of a total of 35. Despite a lot of the arguments presented against Turkey, the main reason for the delay is apparently the size of her population, since the population of each member country determines the weight of her vote in the European Council. Therefore, when Turkey becomes a member, she will have more votes than any member country except Germany. For the same reason, the number of Turkish Parliamentarians in the European Parliament will be the second after the German Delegation. Furthermore, the financial contributions from the EU budget to Turkey, particularly to Turkish farmers, will exceed the actual limits of the present EU budget. For these and similar reasons, France, Germany and Austria have proposed for Turkey a special status (priviledged partnership) instead of full membership, which was rejected by the Turkish government and opposition.

Turkish-Armenian relations have also passed through a difficult period. As a result of initiatives by the United States, Russia, Switzerland and some other European countries, Turkey and Armenia started confidential talks in Geneva and have signed two protocols to be approved by both countries’ parliaments. Opposition parties in Turkey reacted negatively to such protocols since they contained only the expectations of the Armenian government like opening the borders and normalization of diplomatic relations without any reference to the previous demands of Turkey, such as the withdrawal of Armenian forces from occupied Azeri territories, the return of displaced persons to their homes and a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh problem. There was also no reference to the Kars Treaty concluded between Turkey and Armenia in 1921, which constituted the basis of relations between the two countries. Furthermore, the Armenian Constitutional Court interpreted the protocols in an unacceptable way for Turkey. Azerbaijan reacted also to these protocols. Although the United States and European countries strongly suggested the ratification of them, the Turkish Parliament has not considered such ratification thus far.

On combating the Kurdish terrorist group PKK, Turkey has found only limited support from her allies and neighbors. Coalition forces in Iraq have combated against practically all terrorist groups in Iraq with the exception of the PKK. The Iraqi government and local authorities in Northern Iraq were unwilling to force the PKK to leave Iraqi territory and they rejected any Turkish land operations to be conducted for that purpose. Northern Iraq continues to be a safe haven for the ← 12 | 13 → terrorists and the reactions of the international community to that have been very limited. Instead some countries suggested Turkey finds a political solution.

More recently, the so-called Arab Spring forced Turkey to take some radical positions that were to a large extent criticized at home and abroad. Turkey had initially suggested Hosni Mubarak and former leaders of Libya and Tunisia to listen to the voices of their people and to adopt secular principles in shaping new administrations. This suggestion was not accepted, particularly by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. This radical Muslim organization has won elections in Egypt, Tunisia and influences some other countries of the region. Turkey voiced a very strong reaction against the Syrian government with whom previously she had concluded several agreements and had established close relations. The Turkish government gave strong political and logistic support to opposition groups that were permitted to organize meetings in Turkey. In northern Syria, some armed groups, including KYP, a pro-PKK terror group, have established so called “liberated zones” which might create serious problems for Turkey during and in the aftermath of the Syrian crisis. There is an intense debate in the Turkish Parliament and the Turkish media on the situation in Syria and the majority of people are visibly against the involvement of Turkey in any military operations. All these developments may pull Turkey into political, sectarian and even armed conflicts in the Middle East. She would be better off returning to the principle of non-involvement in the disputes among the countries of the region and to take a principled political position against any attack aimed at innocent civilians. In the medium term, the Turkish secular, democratic state system and policies of peace established during the initial periods of the republic may serve as a source of inspiration for the region, provided that Turkey solves some of her own internal problems in the fields of democracy, human rights and individual freedoms.

Turkey’s early membership to the European Union would have been an asset for her, for the region and for Europe. The recognition of Turkey’s security, political and strategic interests by her allies would have helped her to play a more efficient role in the area. Concepts like strategic partnership, as they are often referred to, may then have had more meaningful value. Turkey has a number of important assets to conduct successful foreign policy and one of them is her population as mentioned above. She has a young population, which actually reached 75 million and is still growing, while the population of most EU countries is declining. In Europe, Turkey comes second after Germany and ranks first with regard to people under 40. According to the US Bureau of Census, Turkey’s population will reach 86.4 million by the year 2050. The dynamics of the Turkish population would be an important asset for the EU in the future and in keeping up actual economic and social balances.

The size of Turkey’s territory also represents an important strategic and economic value. She ranks number one in Europe with the exception of Russia. Although Turkey is not among the richest countries of the world in terms of water resources, the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers flowing from Turkey to Syria and Iraq will have a higher value than oil in the long run since oil reserves will be depleted ← 13 | 14 → in the coming decades. The arable lands of Turkey provide an important potential source for the supply of food for herself, for the region and for Europe. Actually, Turkey is among the most important suppliers of fruits and vegetables and other food stuffs to the European Union. Turkey ranks 16th in the world and 6th in Europe in terms of gross national product calculated on the basis of purchasing power parity. She has been one of the fastest growing economies among emerging markets in the last two decades. The Customs Union agreement between Turkey and the EU provides significant advantages to both sides. Despite the fact that this agreement covers only industrial products and keeps aside agriculture and services, it has helped to increase the volume of trade between Turkey and the EU. Turkish armed forces are second in NATO after the United States in the size and strength of conventional forces and it has an important deterrence capability. In some of these areas, Turkey faces some problems as well. Turkey comes in behind most of the European countries in Human Development Index of the UN. She ranks behind the EU countries in individual prosperity as has been shown in the Legatum index. In terms of economy, the relatively high current accounts deficit is a matter of concern. In areas of income distribution, social security, the flow of foreign capital, trade balance, interest rates, accumulated debt burden and unemployment, Turkey also is behind a number of European countries. Therefore, upgrading her position in all of these areas may help her to increase the effectiveness of her foreign policy.

In the diplomatic field, Turkey has a very special position. She is the only country that is a member of Western organizations like NATO, OECD, Council of Europe and the Islamic Cooperation at the same time. There is no other country in the world with a Muslim population that has a democratic and secular constitution. However, Turkey is the only European country neighboring a non-democratic and unstable area full of conflicts and confrontations. The Arab-Israeli Wars, Iran-Iraq War, the wars between Azerbaijan and Armenia, Georgia and Russia and finally the civil war in Syria, all happened in the immediate vicinity of Turkey. In spite of all these conflicts, she managed to be the only country in the Middle East that did not engage herself in a war in the last 90 years. A number of major powers and regional countries have always had expectations from Turkey for their own interests. In the area of a diameter of 1,000 miles around Turkey, lies more than 70 % of the world’s oil and natural gas reserves. Consequently, Turkey is very close to oil producing countries and has become a hub for oil and natural gas pipelines. She is actually a link between the Middle Eastern and Central Asian oil and gas producers and international markets. This role of Turkey will further increase with the construction of Nabucco pipeline.

With all these assets and problems Turkey has a unique position to be fully considered in all strategic, political and economic assessments related to the region. Although many consider her a bridge between Europe and the Middle East, it would be more appropriate to appreciate her role as a springboard of democracy in the region. In this area, what is missing most is democracy. Since no war has happened so far in the world among democratic countries, the spread of democracy to the region may also help to bring peace and stability to the region.

*PhD., Former Turkish Ambassador, Former MP in the Turkish Parliament, and Former Deputy President of the Republican People’s Party.

← 14 | 15 → Hüseyin Işıksal*

Turkish Foreign Policy during the AKP Era

Abstract: This article elucidates Turkish Foreign Policy during the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi - hereafter AKP) era by giving specific reference to concepts like strategic depth doctrine, multi-dimensional foreign policy, rhythmic proactive diplomacy, zero problems with neighbours and neo-Ottomanism. It is argued that Turkish Foreign Policy had gained more ‘strategic perspective’ regarding its own policy priorities with constant emphasis on the use of soft power and the vision of a more ambitious role for Turkey as an active regional and global power. Nevertheless, having said all this, Turkish Foreign Policy does have its critics considering the recent developments in the area especially on the ‘zero problems with neighbours’ policy.

Keywords: Turkish Foreign Policy, AKP, Strategic Depth Doctrine, Multi-dimensional Foreign Policy, Rhythmic Proactive Diplomacy, Zero Problems with Neighbours, Neo-Ottomanism.


When the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi - hereafter AKP) was established in 2001 by ‘conservative democrats’ who mainly came from the Islamist National View (Milli Görüş) tradition, it is possible that many people were not expecting a considerable shift in the Turkish Foreign Policy. It was not long ago that one other center right party, Motherland Party (Anavatan Partisi) under the leadership of Turgut Özal, effectively ruled the county almost the decade after the Turkish military coup in 1980.

Nevertheless, the AKP surprised many by adding more ‘strategic perspective’ to the Turkish Foreign Policy that is mainly based upon Westernisation, balance of power, and status quo oriented foreign policy. More remarkably, despite certain failures, the AKP was able to put its foreign policy dogmas into practical applications and proved that the ‘strategic depth’ doctrine is not only made of just rhetoric.

Basically speaking, there are four main factors that contributed to the realisation of foreign policy perspectives of the AKP. First of all, the boost in Turkish economy in almost in every sector (which made the country the world’s 17th largest nominal economy and 15th largest GDP country) enabled Turkey to use its ‘soft power’ as an effective foreign policy tool. Secondly, emerging and ongoing ← 15 | 16 → problems in the country’s neighbourhood required a proactive, rhythmic, and new foreign policy objective. Thirdly, the AKP’s foreign policy team, and in particular Ahmet Davutoğlu’s role and perspective, deserves a specific credit on both formulisation and implementation of the new foreign policy objectives.

Finally, it is worth stressing that there is a close connection between the domestic and the foreign politics. It is mostly observed that the domestically strong and stable regimes play a more active and confident role in foreign policy. Stating differently, there is no doubt that foreign policy is intertwined with domestic politics everywhere and Turkey is not an exception. In this connection, the AKP’s three consecutive election victories played a major role on formation of the new foreign policy.

In its first term (2002-2007), Turkey initially unilaterally aimed to balance Israel’s power in the Middle East, especially in the era where the United States of America (USA) retreated from its hegemonic position. For this purpose, political and economic support was given to the Bashar Assad regime in Syria, the country that remained as the only forefront state against Israel. Moreover, better relations conducted with Iran and the AKP acted as a balancer among different Iraqi groups.1

In its second term (2007-2011), the AKP announced its commitment to ‘zero problems’ with neighbouring countries especially after the ministry of Ahmet Davutoğlu. For this purpose, various positive steps have been taken for the rapprochement of neighbouring countries including Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Greece.

However, although it has achieved some successes especially in Northern Iraq, starting from its third term (2011), Turkish Foreign Policy in the region needs to be criticised especially in connection with the ‘zero problems with neighbours’ policy. Turkey’s support to Sunni regimes for the sake of the Shias became the main source of criticism.

Deriving from these statements, this paper analyses Turkish Foreign Policy during the AKP era by underlying its main pillars and principles. Initially, the strategic depth doctrine that became the guideline of the new AKP foreign policy is analysed. This is followed by the examination of main layouts of the strategic depth doctrine, namely: multi-dimensional foreign policy, rhythmic proactive diplomacy, ‘zero problems with neighbours’ policy and neo-Ottomanism. In the final part, critics and the concluding remarks are presented.

Strategic Depth Doctrine

“Strategic depth doctrine” simply refers to previous Turkish Foreign Minister and current Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s foreign policy thoughts. Ahmet Davutoğlu, a professor of international relations, was initially appointed as Chief Adviser to the Prime Minister Erdoğan after the AKP’s first electoral victory in ← 16 | 17 → 2002. On May 1, 2009, he was assigned as the Foreign Minister. He successfully shows himself as the new constructor of the AKP’s foreign policy through strategic depth doctrine. Simply stating, Davutoğlu systematically collected his theoretical and conceptual arguments in his academic book titled Strategic Depth: Turkey’s International Position2 that was initially published in September 2001. Strategic Depth became the main reference book on understanding Turkish Foreign Policy during the AKP era.

In terms of content, strategic depth is mainly based upon Davutoğlu’s geo-political and historical analysis and reinterpretation of Turkey’s international position. It has been used to define the strategic roadmap for Turkey’s foreign policy making in the last ten years. Davutoğlu made a reinterpretation of the stable or structural variables of Turkey’s foreign policy formation.3 He argues that Turkey could be an important actor in world politics due to its geo-strategic location and its historical assets.4 Moreover, he suggests that Turkey’s potentialities could be transformed into productive policy instruments as long as they are re-evaluated in harmony with domestic and international changes and throughout strategic principles and planning. With this statement Davutoğlu criticises Turkey’s traditional static and status quo motivated foreign policy.

On strategic depth doctrine, Ahmet Davutoğlu named three methodological foreign policy principles.5 These methodological principles could be named as visionary approach, consistent and systematic framework, and utilisation of the soft-power.

Visionary approach simply refers to detecting the crisis before they emerge and stepping in efficiently.6 According to this premise, international politics is a very dynamic process and therefore, it requires “vision-based” strategies in foreign policy making instead of “crisis-based” strategies that produce only reactive or defensive policies. Consistent and systematic framework refers to unification of strategic mindset, strategic planning, and political will in foreign policy making. By utilisation of the soft power, Davutoğlu underlines the significance of non-coercive and consent-based power.

Then, what are the new pillars of Turkish Foreign Policy during the AKP era as formulised in Davutoğlu’s strategic depth vision? Arguably, it could be categorised under four main points;

← 17 | 18 → 1. Multi-dimensional foreign policy,


XXII, 730
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2015 (May)
Middle East European Union Cyprus Asia America
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2015. XXII, 730 pp.

Biographical notes

Hüseyin Isıksal (Volume editor) Ozan Örmeci (Volume editor)

Hüseyin Işıksal is Associate Professor at Girne American University. He has a PhD from the University of Keele (UK) and a PhD from the Middle East Technical University in Ankara (Turkey). His main areas of expertise are the Middle East, Cyprus and IR Theory. Ozan Örmeci is Assistant Professor and Head of the Department of Political Science at Girne American University in Kyrenia (North Cyprus). He is coordinator of the UPA initiative (International Political Academy) and works as a specialist for the Turkish Political Psychology Association.


Title: Turkish Foreign Policy in the New Millennium