Syria problem replaces terror as Turkey’s main foreign policy issue
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The fight against terrorism, which was seen as the most important problem in Turkish foreign policy in the last two years, has lost its significance among the Turkish public as it got replaced by the Syrian issue in this year’s public opinion poll conducted by Istanbul’s Kadir Has University.
In 2017, 44.2 percent of respondents had said the war on terror was the number one Turkish foreign policy problem, an increase from 31.1 percent in 2016. But in this year’s poll, revealed on June 6, the figure dropped dramatically to 14.1 percent.
The Syrian issue topped the list this year, as 26 percent of the respondents named it as the most important problem, followed closely by deteriorating relations with Israel, with 24.2 percent of the voters viewing it as a huge problem. Only 8.3 percent of the respondents had identified relations with Israel as the most important problem in the poll conducted last year by the university’s Center for Turkish Studies. But the survey this year was conducted at a time when Turkish-Israeli relations plunged after Israeli soldiers shot 60 Palestinian protestors dead last month in the wake of the symbolic opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. While in 2016 and 2017 nearly 40 percent of the respondents said they were against normalizing relations with Israel, this year 56.3 percent said they opposed normalization.
The reason behind the drop in the number of respondents who viewed the fight against terrorism as the most important foreign policy issue is said to be the changes in their perceptions on Turkey’s military operations in Syria. There has also been a rise in the number of people who said they find Turkey’s Middle East policies successful, from 29.1 percent in 2017 to 37.9 percent this year.
Similarly, 41 percent of the respondents find Turkey’s policies on recent developments in Syria successful, compared to 31.6 percent in 2017. In two separate questions, more than 50 percent of the respondents said they find both operations Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch successful, while the rate of those who found the two unsuccessful remained at around 20 percent.
Some 37 percent of the respondents said “Operation Olive Branch” removed threats posed against the Turkish state, while 32 percent said it will enable the return of Syrian refugees.
The number of respondents who see the use of military force as a tool Turkey should prioritize for more efficient foreign policy has increased, with the figure going up to 15.3 percent from 7.8 percent last year.
The United States continued to maintain its spot atop the list of countries seen as the biggest threats to Turkey, as it has been the case for the past two years.