June 30 2010

Nuh Yilmaz News.Az interviews Nuh Yilmaz, director of the Foundation
for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA) in Washington, DC.

How could you characterize the current political course of the
Turkish leadership?

Turkey has been following a new foreign policy in the last couple of
years, which requires political stability, regional peace and economic
interdependency. This foreign policy perspective helped Turkey prosper
and create a peaceful atmosphere in the region. This policy transformed
and redefined Turkey's national interest in a positive and constructive
way. Turkey's newly defined national interest is to secure free flow
of goods, services and people in the region. This policy achieved most
of its goals, and reached to a point where some countries that do not
benefit from political stability and regional peace felt threatened. At
this point, Turkish leadership is tested and has been trying to find
a creative and pragmatic solution to overcome this problem.

Do you share the opinion that strategic partnership between Turkey
and Israel is over?

Since strategic partnership requires a common and shared national
interest, I do agree strategic partnership between Turkey and
Israel is no longer alive. As I mentioned above, Turkey's national
interest depends on political stability, economic interdependence and
regional peace. However, current Israeli government works against these
principles by pursuing policies of permanent tensionand conflict. This
creates political instability and economic isolation in the region.

Therefore, unless Israel or Turkey change their regional perspective
and their foreign policy, I do not see this strategic partnership
revivesany time soon. In the mean time, since the problem is about
principles not about Turkish anti-Israeli sentiment, there is hope that
relations between the two countries may improve. It is important to
note that Turkish-Israeli relationship is still alive but the nature
of the relationship has surely changed.

How can this tension in Turkish-Israeli relations influence
Turkish-American relations?

Both countries have had a special relationship with the US It would be
naïve to think that the Turkish-Israeli tension will not affect their
relationship with the US. In terms of Turkey's relationship with the
US, the most serious impact will be felt in the Congress' attitude
towards Turkey. The influence of the so-called Israeli lobbying the
American Congress is a known fact. In the current climate, the main
objective of especially the right-wing segments of the Israeli lobby
vis-a-vis Turkey is to transform the tension into a Turkey-US problem.

We can expect moves in the US Congress that would provoke a reaction in
Turkey. If the US administration prevents this from happening, it would
be serious gain for the Turkish-American relationship. In the meantime,
Turkish government needs to show more restraint and should not fall
into this trap either. However, if the negative scenario works and
right-wing Israeli lobby achieves its goal by turning Turkey-Israel
disagreement into a Turkey-US problem, the responsibility for the
deterioration of relations would not fall on Turkey's shoulders. If the
right-wing Israeli lobby were able to impact Turkish-American relations
at that level, this would raise serious questions about the role of
Israeli lobby on American foreign policy making. Such a scenario will
ultimately impact US-Israeli relations as well. Considering all these
possibilities, I think neither Turkey nor Israel would take that risk.

Don't you think that Jewish community will stop supporting Turkey in
Kurdish problem and on issue of recognition of so-called "Armenian
genocide" in the world and in US, in particular?

There is a difference between the right-wing Israeli lobby and
the Jewish community itself. This segment of the lobby aims to
mobilize any means necessary to support even the most harmful and
self-destructive policies of right wing Israeli government to impact
US foreign policy. I do not see any problems between Turkey and the
American Jewish community.

Does Turkey's new foreign policy mean that Ankara has disavowed the
idea of integration to European Union?

There is no refusal of the integration process from either side.

Negotiations and legal adjustments for integration have been in
full force and continuing. Turkey has been implementing its legal,
economic, social reforms for full accession and I do expect more
progress in the near future.

How successful can Turkey be while playing the role of the leader of
the Islamic world?

Turkey does not seek to become the leader of the Islamic world. In
fact, there is not a singular "Islamic world" out there that has been
awaiting a leader. Turkey has been trying to create an atmosphere
that would bring peace and prosperity to any country in the region
including Romania, Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan etc. If
economic integration and political stability and peace are achieved,
all stakeholders will benefit from the situation. In that sense,
Turkey is very much interested in what the American philosopher Fred
Dallmayr calls "mutual empowerment" in its relations with neighbors
and countries in adjacent regions.

Can Turkish-Azerbaijani relations get worse if Azerbaijan continues
its close partnership with Israel?

I do not see that happening. Azerbaijani-Israeli relationship is a
bilateral matter and Turkey has its own relationship with Israel as
well. If Azerbaijan sees benefit and national interest in its close
relationship with Israel, it is Azerbaijan's sovereign decision to
continue that relationship. This is the same thing for Turkey. What
Turkey would look at is not those bilateral relations, but how
those relations are reflected vis-a-vis regional peace and political
stability. If that relationship serves to peace and stability, then
it would be welcome.

From: A. Papazian