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Today's Zaman - December 22, 2010

by Amanda Paul

Turkey has gone from being a very internal looking country to a nation expanding and consolidating its influence in its neighborhood and beyond. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu spent most of 2010 circumnavigating the globe in efforts to enhance Turkey’s global status both economically and politically.

However, no matter how much global gallivanting Ankara does, if one looks beyond the surface it is clear that Turkish foreign policy is not quite as successful as many in Ankara make it out to be, and 2010 has been something of a patchy year. While Turkey has continued to consolidate its relationships with a number of countries, particularly in the Muslim world and Russia, and developed new ties further afield in Africa, South America and the Far East, other relationships have deteriorated.

Ties with traditional allies in the West remain somewhat rocky. Relations with the US have finished on a bitter note, not the least because of the WikiLeaks cables. In 2010 three issues in particular soured relations. Firstly, Turkey’s position on Iran and Ankara’s decision to vote “no” in the UN Security Council on sanctions against Tehran. Given that US President Barack Obama put a considerable amount of time and effort into this, Turkey’s approach left a bitter taste in the mouths of both the Obama administration and the US Congress. While Obama tried to talk Turkey into either voting for the sanctions or abstaining, Erdoğan preferred to go along with his new friend, the president of Brazil, and voted against sanctions. From Washington’s point of view Turkey turned its back on the Euro-Atlantic community in favor of Iran. Furthermore, Washington also finds it difficult to understand why Turkey keeps inviting the Iranian president to Ankara and giving him red carpet treatment.

The second issue was the Mavi Marmara incident, with the US somehow being less sympathetic than it could have been towards Turkey’s position because of Ankara’s stance vis-à-vis Iran and Hamas, even though a number of Turks were killed by the Israeli military. From its perspective Turkey saw the US’s somewhat halfhearted response to this uncalled-for Israeli aggression as another example of the soft approach many countries have towards Israel and the global machine which is the Jewish lobby.

Then there was the failure of Turkey’s rapprochement with Armenia -- principally as a result of Turkey’s decision to link ratification of the two protocols (under Azerbaijani pressure) for the normalization of relations to progress on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Given that in the two protocols signed by Armenia and Turkey there was no mention of Karabakh, Ankara’s decision was viewed negatively. Turkey’s credibility was damaged and the US was left disappointed because Obama had been hoping that success here would go some way to removing the Armenian genocide bill from his desk. It did not, and Turkey-US relations went through an extremely chilly period in the run-up to the April 24 genocide commemoration when the efforts of the Armenian lobby were in full swing to have this bill passed. Things may get worse in 2011 because of Turkey’s position over Iran and Israel; Ankara could find itself with fewer friends, and the risk of the genocide bill getting passed may be greater.

Next year may be worse because of Turkey’s position with Iran and Israel.

Turkey’s relations with Israel remain at rock bottom, and it may take years to glue this relationship back together. Representatives of the Israeli government remain deeply critical of the Justice and Development Party (AKP); its relations with Hamas and what they say is an increasingly biased view of the situation on the ground in the Middle East. They also despise Turkey’s upgraded relationship with Iran, with many people saying that Turkey is simply offering Iran a platform to spout propaganda. The Israelis have also begun to consider alternatives to Turkey. They have tightened their relationship with Greece including in the security sphere and recently signed a civilian aviation agreement, the first bilateral treaty in 60 years. Israel seeks greater cooperation with Greece to maintain a security alliance in the eastern Mediterranean. For Greece, friendship with Israel is seen as a great asset, particularly due to Israel’s perceived closeness to the administration in Washington. Greece also hopes that its closeness with Israel will convince Diaspora Jews to invest in Greece and support Athens in international disputes. Israel has also signed an agreement with the Greek Cypriots to share natural resources in the eastern Mediterranean, something that Turkey is opposed to.

Coming to the EU there is little to say. Negotiations are going from bad to worse. Turkey blames the EU for unfair treatment while the EU says that Turkey is failing to make sufficient reform efforts. The Turkey-EU-Cyprus triangle, along with opposition from a number of member states, and Turkey’s fading commitment, is eroding the relationship with the vicious circle of blame becoming increasingly difficult to break. Unless there is a chance in approach from both sides -- each one needing to give something -- the accession talks may really be on their last legs in 2011.

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