Synopsis: Turkey’s Foreign Relations

February 16, 2016

This is an attempt to describe, as briefly as possible, state of Turkey’s foreign relations.

US-Turkey: Exasperation.
Russia-Turkey: For the optimist the word of choice could be “tension”, for the pessimist “enmity”.
China-Turkey: Apprehension.
NATO-Turkey: Mistrust.
EU-Turkey: One can pick any one of the following for a single word description: annoyance, frustration, grief, irritation, vexation. There is, however, a two-word alternative: “unworthy deals”.
UN-Turkey: Turkey’s punch bag.
Syria-Turkey: Friends turned arch enemies.
Iraq-Turkey: Neighbors in disharmony.
Israel-Turkey: No going back to status quo ante.
Egypt-Turkey: Hostility.
Iran-Turkey: Escalating rivalry, growing hostility.
Saudi Arabia-Turkey: An alliance of convenience.
Qatar-Turkey: Uncertainty.

Today’s top agenda items may again be the shelling of targets in Syria and refugees stranded at the border. None of that, however, can prevent one from seeing the extremely concerning broad picture.

A decade ago Turkey had launched the accession process with the EU. President Obama had come to Ankara on his first bilateral visit abroad and delivered a moving speech before the Turkish parliament referring to Ataturk’s greatest legacy as Turkey’s strong, vibrant and secular democracy. Turkey and Russia were engaged in mutually beneficial cooperation built over decades. Relations with China were making steady progress, overcoming the obstacle of distance. Turkey was elected to the UN Security Council with solid international support. Turkey was a trusted NATO partner. Relations with Assad were extremely cozy. Israeli tourists visiting Turkey were in the hundreds of thousands. Ankara had become a “facilitator” between Israel and Syria. New avenues of cooperation with Egypt were being opened. Turkey and Iran were putting the emphasis on positive aspects of their relationship. Turkey’s relations with Saudi Arabia and Qatar were correct with no shadowy dealings. And, we did not have a PYD/YPG problem.

A decade ago the Justice and Development Party (JDP) was in power. It still governs Turkey. So the question is “how on earth did we get here?” The Government has everyone else to blame but itself and says that it will stand by its high principles no matter what. Nonetheless, it is abundantly clear that Turkey’s national interests require a set of more cogent and less costly ones …

About Ali Tuygan

Ali Tuygan is a graduate of the Faculty of Political Sciences of Ankara University. He joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in January 1967. Between various positions in Ankara, he served at the Turkish Embassy in Brussels, NATO International Staff, Turkish Embassies in Washington and Baghdad, and the Turkish Delegation to NATO. From 1986 to 1989 he was the Principal Private Secretary to the President of the Republic. He then served as ambassador to Ottawa, Riyadh, and Athens. In 1997 he was honored with a decoration by the Italian President. Between these assignments abroad he served twice as Deputy Undersecretary for Political Affairs. In 2004 he was appointed Undersecretary where he remained until the end of 2006 before going to his last foreign assignment as Ambassador to UNESCO. He retired in 2009. In April 2013 he published a book entitled “Gönüllü Diplomat, Dışişlerinde Kırk Yıl” (“Diplomat by Choice, Forty Years in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs”) in which he elaborated on the diplomatic profession and the main issues on the global agenda. He has published articles in Turkish periodicals and newspapers.
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