Turkey’s foreign policy challenges in the new system

Turkey’s foreign policy challenges in the new system

Turkey’s new administrative system, which could be dubbed the “Second Republic phase,” started after President Tayyip Erdoğan took his oath on July 9.

It is natural to expect certain problems with harmonization into the new system as the rules of the game change.

But neither the circumstances of international politics nor the rules of global economy have changed because of the system change in Turkey.

Erdoğan, now with all the executive power, has to continue dealing with them uninterrupted.

In the area of foreign relations, Erdoğan’s main challenge remains to be Turkey’s problems with its biggest ally, the United States.

It is important that following his stopovers in Turkish Cyprus and Azerbaijan, in a show of not abandoning the fundamentals of Turkish diplomacy, the first international conference that Erdoğan will attend is the NATO Summit in Brussels between July 11 and 12. There, Erdoğan is scheduled to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump.

Erdoğan expects Trump to stop cooperating with a group Turkey considers terrorist in Syria and extradite an exiled Islamist preacher who is accused of masterminding a coup attempt in 2016 in Turkey. He warns about the consequences (which could affect the NATO alliance) if the U.S. imposed sanctions on Turkey, particularly in the procurement of the jointly-produced F-35 fighter jets. He also expects the U.S. leader to exempt Turkey from sanctions on Iran. Trump, on the other hand, expects Turkey to release an American pastor arrested in Turkey, stop using the Russian-made S-400 missiles in its NATO compatible air defense system, respect the Iran sanctions and have better relations with Israel, despite reactions within Turkey due to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

These are tough problems. But Both Erdoğan and Trump might want to adopt a new approach since NATO expects more from Turkey in the defense of Europe in terms of both financial and military contributions.

With the European Union, relations will be frozen for at least the next sixth months due to the term presidency of Austria, which is at the forefront of anti-Turkish sentiments in Europe. Turkey, in the meantime, could make the necessary harmonization work since it abolished the EU Affairs Ministry, joining it with the Foreign Ministry. Migration issues are likely to play a role in EU relations, especially after Germany’s recent moves.

But Turkey and the EU are still on the same page regarding the new tariffs the U.S. imposed.

In the Middle East, Turkey’s priority seems to be focused more on security along its borders with Syria, Iraq and Iran, especially against Kurdish separatism, and on supporting the Palestinians in the event of attacks from Israel. Relations with Russia and Iran are expected to occupy an important role in Turkey’s regional affairs. Deepening partnership with Azerbaijan should also be expected.

But in order to make more comments, it would be better to wait and see the results of Erdoğan’s encounters during the NATO summit.

Murat Yetkin, Government, foreign policy, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan