Is the AKP waiting for ‘the pear to drop into its mouth?’

Is the AKP waiting for ‘the pear to drop into its mouth?’

Much excitement was elicited by newly installed Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım when he said, in his first official remarks, that his government’s aim would be “to increase the number of friends Turkey has and reduce the number of its enemies.” 

That was just another way of repeating ousted Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s “zero problems with neighbors” slogan, which is much ridiculed today when Turkey has hardly any friendly neighbors left and problems with just about everyone in the world.

Yıldırım’s remarks were followed by the remarks of Deputy Prime Minister and government spokesman Numan Kurtulmuş, who said after the new government’s first cabinet meeting at the end of May that it is “essential” for Turkey to go for a revision of some foreign policy practices which have been in force for some time.

Kurtulmuş added that the world “has entered a great period of conflict” and said, “Even if we wanted to, we don’t have the power or the possibility to solve every problem.”

This was taken by many as an indirect admission of the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) foreign policy failures which have left Turkey an isolated country. 

But as suggested in this column when the topic was last addressed, it is not up to Yıldırım or Kurtulmuş to determine the course of Turkey’s foreign policy. This will depend very much on President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who strengthened his hold over this domain as well when he fired Davutoğlu.

A commentary piece in the pro-government daily Yeni Şafak on Monday by Yasin Aktay, a deputy head of the AKP – and the party’s former foreign policy adviser who now deals with human rights issues – reflected the confusion in government circles regarding the foreign policy domain. 

Aktay said there was nothing wrong in the foreign policy Ankara is pursuing, putting the blame for the country’s present less-than-desirable situation in this regard on the existing international “conjuncture,” which he intimates will change and vindicate Turkey. 

Here is what he says:

“There is no institutional or structural crisis in Turkey’s foreign policy. When the conjuncture changes and stability is reinstated in regional countries, Turkey will again become the most important country in the region. The EU and NATO, on the other hand, are grappling with institutional and structural crises. The only country that can produce results for these institutional crises is Turkey. Our hope is that they will see this before long.” 

Judging by these remarks, Turkey is not going to go out of its way to try and “increase the number of its friends and reduce the number of its enemies” but will wait for the world around it to change so that this can happen automatically.

In addition to this, and, contrary to Kurtulmuş’s remark that Turkey does not have the power or the possibility to solve every problem even if it wanted to, Aktay is effectively saying that if the EU and NATO take off their blinkers, they will see that Turkey has the key to solve their problems.

These remarks are “self-delusory” and have clearly been prompted by an inflated yet untenable image of what Turkey’s true capabilities are. 

They nevertheless show that as far as the “Erdoğan camp” is concerned, Ankara would rather wait for the world to change for the sake of Turkey’s needs, rather than make the necessary policy revisions in order to contribute to the regional stability that Aktay claims will automatically elevate Turkey to pride of place in the region again.

On reading Aktay, one recalls the Turkish saying about a person who is not prepared to make any contribution, preferring instead to sit under the pear tree and wait for the fruit to ripen and fall into his or her mouth.

That is hardly a good foundation to base a country’s foreign policy on, especially if that country happens to be in one of the most volatile parts of the world, experiencing the accompanying fallout on a daily basis.