Turkey’s foreign policy in 2014
The year 2014 could be summarized as the year of elections for Turkey that resulted in the overall change in the political system with Recep Tayyip Erdoğan becoming the first president elected through popular vote, while Ahmet Davutoğlu took over the chairmanship of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Prime Ministry. The massive corruption and graft probe concerning four former ministers; the government’s unending fight against the Fethullah Gülen community; the ups and downs of the Kurdish peace process were other top issues that occupied the country’s vicious domestic political circle.
The foreign policy was, too, affected of the change in the top positions with Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu becoming the new foreign minister and Volkan Bozkır replacing him as the new EU minister. Known as the architect of Turkey’s much-discussed foreign policy, Davutoğlu’s taking the helm as prime minister was believed to have a direct effect on foreign policy choices. But Davutoğlu has not found much time to deal with foreign policy since he sat on his prime ministerial seat due to his time-consuming work in his new capacity.
As expected, Erdoğan has used his new position for a more active foreign policy agenda, as he has made nearly a dozen trips abroad in the last five months. However, his influence on foreign policy was much more visible in his frequent and long statements as his well-known critiques against the global order designed by the U.N. Security Council’s five permanent members, in particular the Western bloc, contained strong worded paragraphs.
His not so realistic rhetoric that has often bashed the United States, European Union, European countries, Israel, Egypt, China and etc. either deteriorated Turkey’s ties with these countries or made reconciliation nearly impossible. Erdoğan did not only target these countries, but also their medias, nongovernmental organizations and other similar institutions, especially at times when Turkey was criticized because of its undemocratic moves.
Erdoğan’s becoming the president and using the massive 1,150-room presidential palace were seen in the West as additional moves to increase his authoritarian rule in Turkey, prompting strong reactions from Erdoğan. The use of some unlawful means in the fight against the Güen community, efforts of covering up corruption claims and increased pressure on the media were also regarded in this frame and deteriorated both Turkey’s image and relationship with the Western countries.
Turkey’s reluctance in joining the international campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) was not perceived positively by the West and caused speculations that Turkey tolerated the free passage of foreign fighters to join the extremist Islamists to be revisited. Turkish diplomats and the government tried hard to break this perception, but they were not so convincing.
As of the end of 2014, Turkey still has no ambassadors in Israel, Egypt and Syria. It’s trying to mend ties with Iraq following the change of the government while its dialogue with Iran is not much promising in terms of creating meaningful cooperation. Turkey’s land transportation and therefore trade to its southern neighbors have been negatively affected from the ongoing unrest.
Turkey failed to open any negotiation chapters with the EU in 2014 due to remaining blockages. Worse, its ties with Brussels have been seriously ruined following the arrests of two prominent journalists, Ekrem Dumanlı and Hidayet Karaca. There are increasingly less true supporters of the country in the EU as the perception that Turkey is drifting toward authoritarianism is getting more founded with every passing day.
Turkey’s few friends in its region are Russia and Qatar, and non-state actors Massoud Barzani, Hamas and the Free Syrian Army (FSA). Russia has recently been cornered by the global system because of its annexation of Crimea and Qatar had to bow down before Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries by expressing its full support to Egypt’s Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
Turkey continued its conscience and value-based foreign policy throughout the year and will likely keep it up in the next, but its picture frequently associated with the description of “precious loneliness” will also harbor its place in the global foreign policy dictionary.