Two things Turkey should do to secure its borders
The period between 2010 and 2015 witnessed two major processes in Turkey. One was the Kurdish peace process, aimed at resolving a decades-old problem associated with outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorism that has claimed the lives of thousands of people. Another was the writing of Turkey’s first civilian and democratic constitution, aimed at promoting universal values such as the rule of law, human rights, and freedoms.
Unfortunately, Turkey failed to accomplish either of these processes, which could have constituted solid ground for its aim to become one of the world’s top 10 economies by 2023 and to join the EU as a full member. Resolving these two issues would have helped Turkish governments provide comfort, prosperity and a first-class democratic environment for all citizens.
It would also have given Ankara an upper hand in dealing with immediate foreign policy issues, especially those erupting from the unrest across the Middle East. A country that has solved its most important problems would surely be much more resilient in the face of growing challenges and would be able to respond to them in unity.
The period between 2015 and 2020, however, does not promise this resilience and unity on Turkey’s side. Political investments in the earlier period have been left null and void due to short-sighted electoral gains.
Today’s picture shows Turkey to be an increasingly vulnerable country in the face of asymmetrical and symmetrical threats from both domestic and foreign sources. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and other government officials have been engaged in increasing security measures in urban areas and along the border following the deadly Ankara suicide attack on Feb. 17. But security measures alone will not yield expected results if Turkey fails to complete its domestic homework. Turkey’s main goal should be to push all political means to resolving the Kurdish question and re-writing the constitution with the participation of all four political parties.
Not only will a terror-free country make the lives of every single Turkish citizen more comfortable and secure, but resolving the Kurdish question would also ease Turkey’s hands in its relationship with Iraqi and Syrian Kurds. The is especially the case with the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is currently the main source of tension between Ankara and its allies.
Challenges emanating from the messy situation in Syria will not fade in the short term; neither will the reality that the PYD’s role will increase in due course in the eyes of both the U.S.-led anti-ISIL coalition and Russia. Turkey needs to take necessary measures to stop this problem from further weakening its position in the Syrian theater.
The making of a new foreign policy should start from parliament, with priority given to these two key issues whose successfull fulfillment will give additional strength to Turkey in dealing with regional problems. Both issues are fueling political and social polarization in the country and the only way to fix them is to address them in a courageous, democratic and decisive way.