Hurriyet, Turkey
Jan 4 2012

>From `no problems' to `no friends' ` II `

Wednesday,January 4 2012

The `no problem with neighbors' excitement indeed carried Turkey to
some new and promising dimensions. Wherever Turkey approached,
problems were vanishing, or at least becoming more solvable. Foreign
Minister Ahmet Davuto─?lu was becoming the new `star of diplomacy.'

It was no joke at all. Turkey could convene joint Cabinet meetings
with Syria, a country we were at the threshold of war with just
yesterday. Even though the Americans were twisting arms behind the
scenes, Turkey was able to sign a protocol with Armenia for better
relations. `We shall be one step ahead of the Greeks in the search for
peace,' Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo─?an said in replacing the `No
settlement is a settlement as well' philosophy to `Committed to a
Cyprus settlement' approach on Cyprus.

The `Turkey is always right. When Turkey is wrong, the first rule
applies' era was becoming history and for the first time in recent
history, Turks were pondering whether there were other versions of the
stories that they know by heart thanks to official history.

Then, Cyprus peace hopes were dashed with Greek Cypriot intransigence
in 2004 but despite all efforts, a pro-settlement understanding could
not be nourished among Greek Cypriots. The Greek Cypriot obsession not
to share sovereignty and governance with Turkish Cypriots on the basis
of equal partners continues to mar all settlement efforts. Now, once
again, rather than a `United Cyprus or united Cyprus, we are committed
to settlement' approach, some prominent Turkish diplomats have been
reported to be voicing `time to remarry or get a divorce.' That's
obvious, anyhow. Why do Turks voice it now?

It was not just in Cyprus, of course, the climate changed fast; it
also did so in the entire region. A frustrated young man lighting
himself on fire in protest of his government indeed placed the entire
Middle East on fire. Arab streets turned violent all of a sudden and
yesterday's absolute rulers became prey for the masses demanding more
rights, more freedoms and an absolutely better distribution of wealth.

Thus, even though Davuto─?lu updated his strategy and started defending
that `no problems with neighbors policy has not changed at all. It has
evolved into no problem with peoples of neighboring countries.' In
reality Turkey started seeking a new foreign policy perspective and
the `no problems' approach came to a standstill, or was compelled to
come to an abrupt halt.

Thus, the Middle East-centered or region-dominated approach started to
fade out and being replaced in policy making with a neo-classical
rapprochement with the American strategies. The odd part of this new
approach, unfortunately, was the continued war of words between Ankara
and Tel Aviv, but the political Islamist government in Ankara was
eager to maintain its Israel-bashing habit. Besides, the Israeli
government was doing its best as well to avoid an improvement in ties
with Turkey.

An Ankara pursuing pro-West objectives but remaining at constant
tension with Israel is definitely an anomaly that cannot be maintained
for long. Thus, the `matchmaker' efforts of some friends across the
Atlantic should perhaps be taken very seriously.
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From: A. Papazian