Cyprus Mail, Cyprus
Jan 3 2010


Turkey looking to the West without neglecting the East

By Dr Andrestinos Papadopoulos
Published on January 3, 2010 +-Text size


EIGHT MONTHS after President Barack Obama's visit to Ankara, in April
2009, the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan payed a
reciprocal visit to Washington in early December. Time-wise, the
meeting of the two leaders in the White House took place at a time
when Turkey enjoys the fruits of an up-grading in various fields.
Without producing petrol or natural gas she became energy player. East
and West need Turkey as a transit country for energy issues, as it is
shown by the Nabucco and South Steam Agreements. As a result of a
multidimensional foreign policy, on the basis of the neo-Ottomanism
and the theory of `strategic depth' of Foreign Minister Ahmet
Davutoglu, Turkey managed to project the image of a strong regional
power.
She participates in peace-keeping forces all over the world. And
promotes economic co-operation with various countries, especially in
the Caribbean and Latin America. This is possible due to the fact that
Turkey is the 6th biggest economy in Europe and the 17th in the world.
In the Balkans, she established her position by participating in
peace-keeping operations of the UN, NATO and EU in Kosovo,
Bosnia-Herzegovina and the FYROM, investing in various projects and
supporting the Muslims of these countries.
Through high level visits to more than 60 countries, Turkey aims at
promoting her positions at the international level and her role as
regional power. Good examples are the visits of President Gul to Iraq,
where he talked to the Kurds, and Iran, where he was received by
Ayatolah Khamenei, who for the first time gave audience to the leader
of a NATO country. Fruit of all these efforts was the election of
Turkey as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council with 151
out of 192 votes, giving her additional margin of diplomatic
manoeuvring.
Having such capital at his disposal, Prime Minister Erdogan met Obama,
who visited Turkey on his first overseas trip and described US-Turkish
relations as `a model partnership.' At the meeting they discussed
issues of common interest like Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan,
Turkish-Armenian relations, the Middle East, the Cyprus problem, the
fight against terrorism and other.
On most of these issues they disagree. Concerning the Iranian nuclear
programme the United States favours new stronger sanctions, whereas
Turkey is against them expressing scepticism about their
effectiveness. To the call of the US for more troop commitment to
Afghanistan, Turkey responded negatively. On the question of the
normalisation process between Turkey and Armenia, the United States
stand for a speedy implementation of the Protocol signed between the
two countries, whereas Turkey demands the withdrawal of Armenia from
Nagorno-Karabakh as a precondition.
More important, the close co-operation with Israel does not exist for
Turkey any more. Despite the existence of the 1996 Treaty of military
co-operation, Turkey cancelled common military exercises. Israel
angrily retaliated by announcing the erection of an Armenian genocide
monument and the termination of sophisticated weapons' supply, which
prompted Turkey to hold common military exercises with Syria, the
arch-enemy of Israel.
Efforts by the United States to bring the two countries together
failed, while the US is sharing Israel's criticism of Turkish
behaviour. The language used by Erdogan in Davos to characterise
Israel's bombardment of Gaza and the initial objection to the election
of the former Danish Prime Minister Rasmussen to the post of
Secretary-General of NATO demonstrated that Turkey has chosen the Arab
camp.
Finally, it should be noted that Obama raised the question of the
continuation of the Halki Seminary and that of the Ecumenical
Patriarchy. On the other hand, Erdogan raised the Cyprus question
asking for more active involvement of the US through the appointment
of a special representative for the Cyprus question. On both issues
there was disagreement. They agreed, however, to further develop their
`model partnership', with emphasis on the economic cultural fields.
In general, we observe an effort of disengagement of Turkey from the
US through differentiation of her policies on many international
issues, which is due to the prominent role she seeks to play in the
region. Erdogan said it clearly: `We look towards the West, without
neglecting the East.' It remains to be seen whether a future
coincidence of interests will lead to an agreement on issues where
there is at present disagreement. One thing is, however, certain...the
recognition of Turkey by the US as a regional power of the first
magnitude.

n Dr Andrestinos N, Papadopoulos is a former ambassador for the
Republic of Cyprus