New Turkish foreign policy less ideological, more pragmatic

New Turkish foreign policy less ideological, more pragmatic

Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım has been quite busy with immediate foreign policy issues in recent days, which resulted in accomplishing long-lasting negotiations with Israel to normalize their relationship and launching a reconciliation process with Russia.

“Our responsibility as rulers is to turn extraordinary situations normal,” Yıldırım told his parliamentary group on June 28, adding, “Crisis is the exception, normalization is essential.” 

Yıldırım announced the agreement with Israel on June 27 and later addressed the ambassadors and heads of diplomatic missions based in Ankara at a fast-breaking meal. He further explained the reasons why Turkey sought to reduce tension with both countries in a comprehensive interview with the TRT, again on June 27. 

He went further by saying that Turkey could also develop its relations with Egypt in the fields of economy, trade and the military, although noting presidential meetings would not take place in the foreseeable future. Ministers from both sides could undertake the responsibility of the normalization process, he said, recalling that the government was determined to increase the number of friendly countries in its region. 

That’s why he particularly saluted Iraq’s new ambassador to Turkey, Dr. Hisham Al-Allawi, during his speech at the fast-breaking meal, making sure Ankara was in favor of good ties with Baghdad, despite some difficulties. 

There is no need to underline that these efforts to change Turkey’s foreign policy are steps taken in the right direction and worthy of being encouraged. An end to Turkey’s “precious loneliness” is rational in various dimensions, with security needs and economic interests at the top of the list. 

Losing friends in the region and beyond, putting Turkey’s borders at risk, deteriorating the country’s image in both Europe and the Middle East and facing significant economic damages were only a few results of the poor foreign policy understanding of previous governments. An alarming foreign policy was absolutely in need of a substantial change. 

It’s no coincidence that this change is taking place immediately after the ousting of former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, a university professor who specialized in foreign policy theories and who was replaced by Yıldırım, an engineer. 

But one should not think the sole responsibility of this foreign policy failure was on the former head of the government. Whatever was done in the foreign policy domain was well within the knowledge and approval of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. It was even then-Prime Minister Erdoğan himself who nixed Davutoğlu’s efforts as his foreign minister to engage in dialogue with Egyptian authorities back in late 2013 and early 2014.  

However, it’s always much better to start a new process with a new leader and there is no question that Yıldırım is the best person to transform Turkey’s foreign policy into a more pragmatic shape.  

As a matter of fact, this pragmatic nature in foreign policy more suits Erdoğan, who did not hesitate to send a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin in a bid to express his sorrow over the shooting down of the Russian warplane last year. 

An injection of pragmatism into the implementation of foreign policy would not suffice if this trend were not backed by steps to rebuild confidence with the aforementioned countries and others. 

The way to this point needs institutional efforts to avoid major mistakes like sending a flotilla to break the Gaza siege or downing a Russian warplane for a 17-second-long airspace violation. To this end, a return to structured diplomacy prevailing in the promotion of peace, stability and neighborly relations with all countries, as well as placing common sense and realism at the core of it, would be the best formulation of what we call “the new Turkish foreign policy.”