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    Turkey's tendency to find a "middle path" to increase with Council seat

    HotNewsTurkey Staff
    20.10.2008 - 09:47 | Son Güncelleme:

    Turkey’s foreign policy makers bear a greater responsibility than ever after being elected as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council for the period of 2009-2010. (UPDATED)

    Instead of forcing the taking of sides at the Council, experts say Turkey's tendency to find a middle path between contending parties would increase, especially in the international row over Iran's nuclear program, one the most pressing issues on the Council agenda, the Turkish Daily News (TDN) reported on Monday.

     

    Turkey's foreign policy in the last five years has revolved around maintaining "zero problems" with its neighbors and the peaceful resolution of disputes.

     

    This has usually meant promoting diplomatic negotiation on international disputes with Iraq and Iran, sometimes to the ire of its allies, the United States and Israel, or taking the first step toward resolving long-standing disputes, namely the Cyprus issue.

     

    Turkey's foreign policymakers bear a greater responsibility now, after the country was elected Friday as a non-permanent member on the U.N. Security Council for 2009-2010 after an absence of 48 years.

     

    Turkey previously held a seat on the Security Council in 1951-52, 1954-55 and 1961, and will now retake its seat on Jan. 1, 2009.

     

    "Turkey has been playing a positive role in the region and I think that this will reinforce Turkey's tendency to not to take sides in regional conflicts and act as a mediator looking for the best of all parties," Hugh Pope, a senior analyst for the International Crisis Group, told TDN.

     

    TURKEY TO FACE TWO CHOISE ON IRAN

    Retired Ambassador Inal Batu, who represented Turkey at the United Nations, said Turkey would not be forced to follow any particular path and would bring its own approach to regional tensions.

     

    "If we were a European Union member, we would have to act accordingly. But we are not, and just like we did not say alright to everything the U.S. demanded on Iran, we can resume doing so in our position on the Security Council," Batu said, TDN reported.


    Fuat Keyman, a professor of International Relations at Koc University, struck a similar note, according to the TDN.

     

    "On Iran, Turkey may choose one of two choices. One is to assume a status quo stance, which would in fact negate any significance of its membership. But it can also give weight to diplomacy and promote dialogue. I think this is the vision of the government. That's one of the factors that won Turkey the seat in the first place," Keyman said.

     

    Likewise, tackling the Iranian crisis required a multilateral approach, bringing the EU rather than the United States to the forefront, Keyman noted.

     

    TURKEY'S EFFORTS DRAWN ATTENTION
    Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan also stressed that point upon his return to Turkey from New York on Sunday.

     

    "Turkey's efforts toward the peaceful resolution of disputes in many international and regional contexts have drawn the attention of world public opinion," Babacan said.

     

    The foreign minister also underlined that Turkey received 151 out of 192 votes, an accomplishment not seen since Sweden was elected by 157 votes in 1996. 

     

    Austria was the second country elected to the Council from the "Western European and others" group, with Iceland failing to secure enough votes to get in.

     


    EFFORTS ON IRAN
    The latest visible Turkish attempt to forge closer understanding on Iran came when it hosted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Istanbul last August for a "working dinner". The merit of the visit was disputed, as the Iranian president gave no significant sign of a more conciliatory stance.

     

    Iran insists nuclear enrichment is its right, and refused to accept the latest incentive package of the U.N. Security Council permanent members plus Germany – P5+1 – last summer. Turkey defines its role in the crisis as a "facilitator".


    But Turkey was likely to resume this stance, Keyman noted. "Turkey's moderate and reconciliatory stance on the Iranian issue will be reinforced by Security Council membership," Keyman said, adding that the Justice and Development Party (AKP) also had domestic considerations in following a moderate path.


    "The AKP has a successful foreign policy record but its domestic policies have created tensions within the country. By increasing its international legitimacy with a moderate position, it will try to make up for the problems it faces in domestic politics," Keyman said.

     
    IMPLICATIONS ON CYPRUS UNCERTAIN
    Turkish foreign policy has been troubled for decades by the Cyprus issue and many observers say the balance might change in favor of Turkey with its Security Council membership.

     

    Greek Cypriot leader, Demitris Christofias, said Turkey's election to the seat did not please him. Likewise, Greek Cypriot media pointed out that their country would have trouble passing Security Council resolutions favoring their position on the future of the island.

     

    Batu emphasized likewise that determining the agenda of the UNSC was an important element in itself.

     

    "Following the rejection of the Annan Plan in 2004 by Greek Cypriots, a U.N. report praised Turkey's efforts to reach a solution on the island, even advising lifting the embargo imposed on the northern part of the island. That report was not even put on the Security Council's agenda. I believe fiascos like these will be prevented with our membership," Batu added.

     

    Pope also drew attention to the benefits of UNSC membership for dealing with the Cyprus issue.

     

    "Turkey will now have some confidence to counterbalance the fact that the Cyprus has always claimed the monopoly on legitimacy as an international actor," Pope noted.


    He acknowledged, however, that the membership was a "double edged sword." "On the one hand Turkey is certainly closer to the decision-making mechanism, but on the other hand it is less able to do what it wants. Turkey has committed itself to the latest talks on Cyprus. Everything it does it will have to gain an international consensus," Pope said.

     

    Keyman disagreed, however, stressing that the main determinant would be the two leaders on the island of Cyprus, along with attitudes of Turkey and Greece.

     

    "It is wrong to assume that membership will make a difference in Turkey's power on negotiations. Topics like Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and the Caucasus, within the context of the latest debate on the revival of the Cold War and energy security, will be the main issues surrounding Turkey on the Security Council," Keyman maintained.

     

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