Five principles for a visionary foreign policy for Turkey

Five principles for a visionary foreign policy for Turkey

2018 is the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, and history obliges us to focus on the merits of peace in ensuring security and stability all over the world. Turkey’s contribution to world peace and security in its role as a potentially important regional actor cannot be neglected. It is therefore necessary to define a visionary foreign policy: In a nutshell, the parameters of such a vision could be identified in five key principles.

First, Turkey needs to define a reliable and predictable neighborhood policy in the Balkans, the Black Sea region, the Caucasus, the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean. Reliability and predictability require impartiality in foreign policy. A regional actor with the potential to become a respectable honest broker should avoid pursuing foreign policy conduct that gives the impression that it lacks an equidistant approach to fellow regional actors.

Ankara’s reaction to U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s “undivided” capital, convening the extraordinary summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul was a responsible initiative. This initiative was then carried to the United Nations General Assembly and resulted in a broader stance, safeguarding the principles of international law.

It is necessary, however, to underline that Turkey still needs to define a neighborhood policy respecting the rights of Israel in the Middle East, not alienating it from the peace process with humiliating rhetoric. Turkey also needs to correct its relations with Egypt, define a better policy for the future of Syria, and to embrace the Kurds (both within Turkey and abroad). Antagonization of regional actors will only increase Turkey’s factor of unreliability.

Second, Turkey needs to redefine and strengthen its commitments to its traditional allies. Relations with the United States have long been declining, and should be based on mutual respect, confidence, reliability and predictability.

The “visa crisis” may be over, but there are several other key issues affecting Ankara-Washington relations. If Turkey is a state that respects the rule of law, so is the U.S. Therefore, if Ankara argues that the visa crisis has been resolved without giving any assurances about future investigations to the U.S., (which would endanger the principle of separation of powers), Turkey should also accept that the U.S. abides by the same principle. Such an approach should also apply to

Ankara’s relations with European allies, particularly Germany and Greece.

Third, Turkey should continue to rely on the two major pillars of European and Euro-Atlantic security and stability - NATO and the EU - in sustaining its own security. These two pillars are the fundamental institutions of secularism, democracy, the rule of law and human rights. There is currently an unreasonable hysteria in Turkey, defined by the expectation that these two pillars are in disarray and are about to collapse. This is a fantasy, if not a fallacy. Turkey is stronger in its region because of its membership of NATO and because of its accession process to the EU. The latter may be facing a number of difficult challenges but it should never be given up and Turkey should never be unanchored from the EU.

Fourth, Turkey needs to develop fair, transparent bilateral relations with Russia, in a relationship that needs to be defined as one between equals. Both Moscow and Ankara have to recognize that Turkey is a member of NATO, it has a Western vocation, and its relations with Russia and other Eastern neighbors only enhance its role as a regional actor. Turkey’s neighborhood policy should also entail well-defined policies on Russia, the Black Sea and the Caucasus, which would be interpreted as a complement of Turkey’s prevailing foreign policy axis rather than as an alternative to it.

Finally, Turkey needs to develop a foreign policy vision allied with its international relations interests. It should avoid further instrumentalization of foreign policy for domestic purposes, which unfortunately seems to be the malaise of our times. The first four principles will fail to become the parameters of a visionary foreign policy unless this fifth principle is implemented.