Going south? Turkey’s relations with neighborhood
Almost a year ago, Turkey’s foreign relations seemed to be the best of its state affairs.
Economic growth was pushing exports toward new markets and foreign trade was – correctly – considered as a factor of the foreign policy. Thus the government was looking into alternatives to open new channels to uncomfortable markets and not necessarily through its Foreign Ministry; cultural and educational non-governmental channels were favored as well.
Libya looked like a perfect example for that. Investments of more than 7 billion U.S. dollars provided jobs for 25,000 families in Turkey. There were still weeks for Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to receive the Moamar Gadhafi Human Rights Award from his Gadhafi’s own hands in Triploli, but the relations between countries promised a bright future. There were actually those wh asked Erdoğan not to receive that award, but the investors lobbied, even pleaded him to do so.
Almost a year ago Turkish and Syrian governments were having joint cabinet meetings, mutually lifting travel visa requirements. Erdoğan and Bashar al-Assad were calling each other brothers.
It was same with Iraq. Besides joint cabinet meetings, Turkey was a strong supporter of the Iraq government for stability in the region. Ankara showed utmost care in order to keep an equal distance between Baghdad and Arbil, the capital of the Kurdish Regional Government in the country’s north bordering Turkey. As an example, when they wanted to go to Arbil and talk to Iraqi Kurdish leadership there (say on joint struggle against the armed Kurdistan Worketrs’ Party (PKK) militants there), Turkish officials tried to go to Baghdad first.
Relations with Iran were still in the enthusiastic atmosphere of the nuclear talks, in which Turkey was one of the go-betweens with Brazil. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu seemed to be a one-man-bridge between the West and Iran on strategic matters.
Relations with Russia – like those with Iran – have not been overshadowed yet by the radars of the NATO’s Missile Shield defense system, with U.S. embargoes asking for more and more in order to sooth the Israeli demands to strike Iran at once and Iran’s threats to block the oil trade through the Strait of Hormuz.
I’m not going to even mention the case of Libya; neither Gadhafi nor his regime remains alive.
With Syria, Turkey is hosting ranking Syrian army defectors who are after getting organized to overthrow the al-Assad regime.
Iraq is at the brink of a sectarian and ethnic civil war; Nuri al-Maliki’s government there is at odds with not only Sunni Arabs and Kurds there, but with Turkey as well. Yesterday the two countries summoned each other’s ambassadors to reflect on their disturbance from each other.
Foreign trade from Turkey to and through Syria and Iraq is at a point of cessation.
Turkey’s only two foreign relations which are not going south, in relation to a year ago, are those with the U.S. and Azerbaijan. We don’t have to take the frozen relations with the European Union, mainly because of Cyprus, into account.
And the only relations that are not at a worse position, are those with Israel; it is still as bad as a year ago.