26 Haziran 2009
Turkish-American cooperation in this area should first aim at strengthening NATO. Consequently, success of the NATO mission in Afghanistan should be a priority as NATO’s future hinges on its outcome. The two allies should also strive to develop closer NATO links with countries in the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Gulf along the lines of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative signed at the 2004 NATO Summit. That agreement aims to contribute to long-term global and regional security by offering countries of the broader Middle East region practical bilateral security cooperation with NATO.
In this connection, we must not overlook Russian sensitivities. The Russian invasion of Georgia last August was in part a result of Tbilisi’s miscalculation that NATO would come to its aid against Russia. A promise of early NATO membership to the countries in the Caucasus is not likely to enhance stability and security there. The better alternative might be to encourage closer ties with the EU and for Turkey and the United States to encourage both sides in this direction. Turkey and the United States have already engaged in security and defense cooperation in certain countries of the region. The two NATO allies have provided training and equipment to the armed forces of Georgia. Turkey’s General Staff has military training programs in several other countries of the region. Here there is room for the expansion of Turkish-American cooperation.
At the same time, it will be necessary to work with Russia and China on the development of new security architecture for Eurasia. There are already security groupings clustered around Russia and China. The Euro-Atlantic community must develop security strategies for the future, taking into account all interested parties, including of course Russia and China.
- Sociopolitical issues
Under the rubric of sociopolitical issues, I dwell on democracy, the rule of law, human rights, gender equality and education, and on secularism. In the Middle East, the Caucasus and Asia, these values are still very scarce. However, progress, prosperity and more broadly, advances in civilization depend on them, particularly on the attainment of equality between man and woman and on the quality of education. The singularly important concept of relevance here is secularism. For the full exercise of all freedoms, including religious freedom, there has to be a thorough separation of the affairs of the state and the law from matters of religion. Secularism acts as the connective tissue of these end values we uphold so dearly.
Turkey and the United States, given their commitment to these values and principles, can join their respective experiences and wisdom in their promotion and in developing bilateral or trilateral programs in countries that are willing to host them. There is, of course, no set prescription for their effective diffusion. However, we can tell how critical and accurate such initiatives are from the reaction of the Taliban in Afghanistan to stop Afghan girls from going to school. The Taliban knows that knowledge and education are its enemies. The approach should be modest and incremental, but sustained. Change is always difficult but what is important is to make small starts in the right direction. The crucial dimension in this respect is the encouragement and support of civil society. President Obama in his Cairo address emphasized women’s rights, education, science and youth. Turkey and the United States have the assets and the capacity to engage in useful and effective schemes of cooperation in these areas.
Turkey has extensive economic, commercial and investment relations in most of the broader Eurasian region. The newly independent states of Central Asia are especially ripe for further economic activity. Their economies will do much better if they connect with European and global markets. Turkey has now become a donor country on its own and has created a special agency that administers aid to many countries in the region. Economic development is a cushion providing security, prosperity and a sense of confidence and well-being to individuals. President Obama identified it as a major challenge. The surest way for nations to advance as peace-loving and politically stable partners is sustained economic and social development. Turkey and the United States can together undertake economic projects aiming at economic development, the reduction of political tensions through joint economic activity between adversaries and providing opportunities to women. I remember from my days as Turkey’s ambassador to Azerbaijan, how many American companies started their investments and operations there from their existing bases in Turkey. Turkey is thus a reliable and experienced partner for joint ventures with the United States and a convenient transfer point into Asia and the Middle East.
Finally, energy is an area where Turkey and the United States have very concrete converging interests. For reliable access to oil and gas from the Middle East, the Caspian and Central Asia, Turkey, for political, strategic, economic and environmental reasons, is the ideal conduit. Turkey is turning into a major energy hub. There are now multiple gas and oil pipelines in Turkey, carrying Russian, Azerbaijani, Iranian and Iraqi oil and gas. There are new projects underway that will provide Europe with energy. Turkey can help diversify the energy market and reduce the temptation to use energy as a tool of power politics. It is important to reduce Russia’s dominance in this sphere. This is necessary not only for providing a margin of comfort for the European consumers, but also for bolstering the independence and the economy of the newly independent states.
The United States is the biggest energy consumer in the world and is increasingly dependent on foreign oil and gas.
In the context of rising competition for energy with the entry of rising economies like China and India into the market, energy is going to be a major determinant of international relations in the 21st century. This is why the United States helped the realization of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline. This is why energy has always been an area of close cooperation and coordination between Turkey and the United States I believe this will continue well into the future.
This then is what I think Turkey and the United States can do together in this vast geography. I know this is not an exhaustive list. I also know much of it will probably not materialize. My hope and expectation, however, is that Turkey and the United States, having the potential, will devise ways and means to enhance security, stability and prosperity in the broader Eurasian region. We will all be better off if the two succeed.
* Dr. Faruk Loğoğlu was Turkey's Ambassador to Washington D.C. between 2002 and 2006.
25 Haziran 2009
Russia and China are contenders for super-power status. In addition to France, Germany and the United Kingdom, other states such as India, Iran, Pakistan and Turkey have joined the competition for spheres of influence. Issues of security, economy and energy beset the region. There are ongoing conflicts, so-called frozen conflicts and potential conflicts. Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote in 1997, "Eurasia is the world's axial super continent. A power that dominated Eurasia would exercise decisive influence over two of the world's three most economically productive regions, Western Europe and East Asia." Clearly, the stakes are high, making future balances and power relationships in the region of critical importance for the overall stability and prosperity of the entire globe.
It is therefore important to explore the subject of whether and how Turkey and the United States can join their assets toward common ends in this vast region. This would also enable us to understand the meaning of U.S. President Barrack Obama’s concept of the "model partnership" he used in describing his country’s relationship with Turkey.
Let us first establish why Turkey and the U.S. are suitable partners. Their suitability, I propose, emanates from the foundational pillars of their relationship. One pillar is their bond of shared values and principles of society: namely democracy, the rule of law, human rights, gender equality and separation of religion and state. Turkey is still unique in espousing and nurturing these standards in its region and among Muslim countries. Undoubtedly, neither Turkey nor the U.S. has perfect scores in any of these domains, but they both commit to these ideals as the norms they want to attain. The similarity of their aspirations provides a functional capacity for them to join their resources for common ends. This allows them to similarly perceive, analyze and approach the challenges they face.
Another pillar of Turkish-American relations is somewhat uneven, but still stable and established. This is the general convergence of their interests, concerns and priorities. Their agendas invariably comprise mostly the same items, whether it is terrorism or energy, Iraq, Iran or Afghanistan, the Middle East, the Caucasus or the Balkans or the future of NATO, just to mention a few. This is not to say that they see eye to eye on any given issue, but their margin of agreement is mostly large enough for them to act together on most matters. They are allies in NATO and have a tested friendship.
In the past, these foundations have enabled Turkey and the U.S. to join hands. Their soldiers fought together in Korea in the early 1950s. They have contributed to stability and security operations over a vast geography extending from the Balkans to Indonesia, from Georgia to Somalia. Most recently, the joint declaration issued at the end of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s March visit to Turkey reaffirmed these strong bonds of alliance, solidarity and strategic partnership and their commitment to the principles of peace, democracy, freedom, and prosperity. The timing and substance of President Obama’s April visit to Turkey confirmed there are meeting points of values, interests and goals between the two nations. His "model partnership" reference emphasized the relationship’s distinctive character and potential.
As we test the validity of our proposition, I suggest that there are at least five broad areas for Turkish-American cooperation in the broader Eurasia region. These are: a) regional and transnational issues, b) security, c) sociopolitical issues, d) economy and e) energy.
Regional and transnational issues
The Euro-Atlantic community is still the leading entity that has the power and influence to shape the evolution of the broader Eurasian region. This is why it is critically important to strengthen the cohesion of the community and its institutions, and bolster its claim for moral and ethical leadership. As its two outermost poles, Turkey and the U.S. have a special responsibility, and the strategic depth, to help NATO pursue its transformation into the premier security provider of the 21st century. The two must also help the European Union evolve from its current standing as a Judeo-Christian club into a genuine union of civilizations. The first step required is to make Turkey an EU member. A related objective is the strengthening linkages of the rest of Eurasia with Euro-Atlantic institutions.
The Balkans is still unstable and prone to renewed violence. Kosovo, Bosnia and Macedonia are in need of continuing assistance and attention from the Euro-Atlantic community. Turkey has been a significant contributor to the United Nations, NATO and EU operations in the region. Turkey and the U.S. can help by maintaining their cooperation there.
Regarding Russia, Turkish-American collaboration can focus on the limitation and control of weapons of mass destruction as well as of conventional forces, given that their policies on the matter coincide. Turkey is also poised to become a stable, secure and viable hub for oil and natural gas transmission and distribution from Central Asia, the Caspian region and the Middle East to the rest of the world. A U.S. lead in this respect would help reduce dependence on Russian oil and gas and enforce the independence of the former Soviet satellites.
In the Caucasus, helping Georgia stabilize and restore its territorial integrity and the resolution of the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia are issues on which Turkey and the U.S. have long collaborated. There is need for a better coordination and focusing of their ongoing efforts, whether bilaterally or in multilateral forums, to achieve the resolution of these thorny problems.
Afghanistan and Pakistan, however, have become the new fulcrum of international concern. President Obama has made these issues top priority. Turkey enjoys close relations with both and is highly active on the front. Turkey is organizing a new summit in November with the leaders of the two countries. Turkey and the U.S. already collaborate extensively in this regard and should continue to do so in the near future.
Turkey enjoys ties with Iran
Meanwhile, Iran’s activities in Iraq and the Gulf and its nuclear program continue to preoccupy both Turkey and the U.S. Turkey supports Obama’s proposed engagement of Iran and is also against Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. However, Turkey enjoys substantial economic and social ties with its neighbor Iran. We also have a steady dialogue with the Iranians and contacts at the highest levels of leadership. After the recent elections there, we need a better-calibrated approach toward Iran to meet its concerns and to encourage it along the path of democracy. Turkey can assist such a process by guiding and counseling the U.S. as it engages with Iran.
Perhaps the most promising area for result-oriented Turkish-American cooperation is the Middle East. The Ottoman Turks ruled the region for a number of centuries. After recognizing its independence from the start, today Turkey has a robust relationship with Israel richly textured with political, economic, military and cultural components. We have close relationships with all the Arab states. This puts Turkey in the position of a trusted facilitator. This is why Turkey is significantly involved in the Palestinian-Israeli dimension and plays hosts to Israeli-Syrian peace talks.
The future of Iraq remains uncertain. That future depends largely on how much Turkey and the U.S. can remain on the same track. Despite some conflicting views in certain areas, both Turkey and the U.S. want to see a united, single Iraq. During and after the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, the U.S. will seek and need Turkish help and cooperation. Turkey must act within consistent policies toward the future of Iraq and concerning its relations with the different components of a united Iraq.
Among the transnational issues, I should mention the fight against terrorism and violent extremism. Turkey and the U.S. are natural allies in this respect. They have both experienced the worst of terrorism and extremism. Their cooperation in combating them is of critical value. Turkey, with its secular democracy, is indeed a "model partner" for the U.S. as they try to address the sources of extremism in both the East and the West.
* Dr. Loğoğlu was Turkey's former ambassador to Washington D.C.
9 Haziran 2009
This is certainly "change" par excellence that is Obama’s assumed trademark. It is a major departure from the abrasive demeanor of the Bush administration. The change is significant, portending an America that can provide a better and more effective leadership in world affairs. This is the good news. There is, however, also cause to worry.
Obama’s Cairo address was, I repeat, fundamentally flawed as he premised himself on a tacit acceptance of the world’s division into "Muslims" and others. That is why he resorted heavily to religious quotes and themes. Yes, by doing so, he probably did succeed in stroking the religious sentiments of his audience and won many hearts Ğ even if only temporarily. In the end, however, he may have compounded existing religious divides. Historically, faith and belief have not always been elements promoting the resolution of differences among societies. He should have preferred a secular approach in his appeals to the Muslims. Now, are the Muslims more likely to reference his words about "women’s rights" or rather, his message about the "turban?" The religious backdrop of his address compelled him to be subdued in his emphases on democracy and women’s rights. It also resulted in an incoherent prescription when he spoke about religious freedom. If he persists in his notion of faith bringing communities together, he may be in for a disappointment. Obama must (and I am confident, does) realize that while he can use religious motifs as part of his script, in the world of diplomacy and exchanges in international politics, he has to employ earthly tools.
In terms of specifics, there was not much new in what Obama said. On Iraq and Afghanistan, he reiterated his well-known points. On Iran, he was firm, but forthcoming. The extraordinary admission of U.S. involvement in the overthrow of the democratically elected Iranian Government (of Prime Minister Mosaddeq in 1953) was indeed one of the highlights of his address. Whether this will help Iranian-American rapprochement remains to be seen.
Obama devoted the longest section of his address to the Middle East process. He did not reveal a plan or announce a new initiative, but he provided concrete clues about his thinking on the Arab-Israeli conflict. His powerful and unequivocal evocation of America’s bonds with Israel probably was the harbinger of a more calibrated and demanding U.S. attitude toward Israel to make concessions needed for peace with the Arabs. His clear call (again) for a stop to Israeli settlements was important. His reiteration of the two-state solution and his reference to the Road Map reflected the essence and the method of his understanding of a final solution. By talking about the plight of Palestinian refugees as part of the problem, he met an important expectation of the Arabs. The mere fact that he referred to Hamas at all amounted to recognition of Hamas as part of the political landscape. Depicting Jerusalem as the home for "Jews and Christians and Muslims", in contradiction to his pro-Israel statements during his election campaign, Obama wisely threaded an open-ended line on this most sensitive issue. As he made demands of Israel, he also called on the Palestinians and the Arab states to do more for peace in the Middle East. He also made a pointed demand (of Israel) for improvements in the quality of the daily life of the Palestinian people. The Arabs have received Obama’s messages well. Even though the general mood in Israel is pensive, pro-peace elements there have also reacted favorably. In short, with his Cairo address, Obama may have gained some new ground in his chances for an Arab-Israeli settlement.
However, Obama is still at the departure line. Capitalizing on his wide support, he must act to deliver results. To succeed, Obama must in the mean time, leave matters of faith to the private domain and stop doing politics through religion. He cannot mix politics and religion in his country; he should refrain from doing so on the world stage. Unfortunately, Obama’s Cairo gains would remain tactical and may prove unessential if he fails to act on the different sources of tension he identified in his Cairo address. What we need from Obama is good and sound policies, not sermons.
4 Haziran 2009
This caveat applies to his long-awaited address Thursday in Cairo, where he hopes to chart a new course for America’s relations with the Muslim world, especially the Arab states. He wants to repair the damage done to America’s image the last 10 years and establish friendlier ties with the Muslim countries based on dialogue and mutual respect. Can he succeed?
One thing is clear: Not even Obama stands any chance of turning the Islamic world around through a single speech. First, the very idea of addressing the world’s Muslims is itself problematic. No matter how well intentioned, it is divisive, premised as it is on the fact that the Muslims and the rest are separate and separated. Obama should have stayed outside the domain of religion and based his appeal and outreach on a secular axis. History is witness to the fact that religious differences are hard to overcome.
Second, the Muslim world, however one defines it, is diverse and seriously divided along political and sectarian lines. Regardless of Obama’s intended messages, different groups will still pick out parts of the speech that suit their purposes. There will be appreciation and praise. There will also be criticism, rejection and denunciation. Obama may therefore end up with a more divided Islamic world than the one he started with. Finally, he faces a hard choice between his idealism and pragmatism. Will he dare displease his Egyptian hosts and other autocratic regimes in the region with a robust emphasis on democracy, the rule of law, human rights and gender equality? The democratic and liberal forces in the Muslim and Arab world would be deeply disappointed if Obama fails to cultivate the need for political reform and progress.
The White House has already announced that Obama’s Cairo address will not be about a new U.S. initiative for the Middle East. But the President is likely to (should) talk about his vision for peace and security in the region. If he is less than blunt about his conception of peace between Israel and the Arabs and is equivocal about the future of the Palestinians, he will have wasted a historic opportunity. I believe the Arab world and Muslims in general will pay more attention to Obama’s messages regarding Israel than his words of goodwill toward Islam. On the Israel-Palestine conflict, Obama has followed a different and better-calibrated line than his predecessors, particularly with his demand for Israel to stop all settlements. The change that Obama can bring is for the U.S. to put some real pressure on Israel to take those painful steps necessary for reaching a lasting peace in the region. The Arab world will probably measure the value of the Cairo speech by the follow-up President Obama gives to the Middle East peace process.
Obama is likely to be very careful as he navigates the sensitive Iranian issue in his Cairo speech. Given that the occasion is an outreach for reconciliation with the Islamic world, the president cannot portray Iran in a negative light. In the wake of the North Korean nuclear and missile developments and just before the presidential elections in Iran, Obama will nonetheless try to be firm with his expectations from Tehran.
The president has already admitted that his job in Cairo is not going to be easy. It is evident that Obama is not going to be able to please everyone. Yet he is to be commended for his efforts to institute relations with the Muslim world based less on passion and emotion and more on reason and universal values. Obama is a skillful orator and more. He has the unique ability to blend the matters of heart with the matters of the mind. I have expressed my reservations about the very notion of "addressing the Muslim world." I do not expect a miracle in Cairo. However, I wish President Obama well and very much hope that his Cairo speech serves to improve the global climate.
4 Mayıs 2009
The ongoing rapprochement between Turkey and Armenia is long overdue. The two neighbors, representing two venerable peoples, need to address pending bilateral issues and normalize their relations, while paving the way for a negotiated solution of the Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict. This will enhance stability, security and prosperity in the critical region of the Caucasus.
Therefore, the ongoing Turkish-Armenian dialogue with the formal announcements of an agreement on a “road map” is encouraging and the right path to follow. There will be detractors from all sides who will try to derail the process, but Ankara and Yerevan should stand firm and pursue the path of friendship with tenacity.
Azerbaijan is right and justified to expect, parallel to the process of Turkish-Armenian normalization, an assurance of progress in its dispute over Nagorno Karabagh, specifically withdrawal by Armenia from occupied Azerbaijani territories as a first step. Turkey herself had established this linkage in her foreign policy in 1993 by shutting down the land border following Armenian attacks against Azerbaijan. The occupation continues and it is Turkey’s duty now to persuade Armenia to make conciliatory gestures towards Azerbaijan.
Turkish political leadership should continue to keep in close touch with the Azerbaijani leadership and better inform both the Turkish and Azerbaijani publics about what they are doing with Armenia and why. However, the leadership in Baku must also take care not to disrupt the Turkish-Armenian process. These are delicate times and all parties ought to act with circumspection. Azerbaijan has as much interest and need to maintain good relations with Turkey as Ankara does with Baku. Returning to the Russian sphere of influence is not a wise alternative for Azerbaijan. It is also clear that improved relations between Turkey and Armenia could increase the chances of a long-term peaceful solution to the Nagorno Karabagh problem.
President Obama disappoints
President Obama believes the Armenian narrative of genocide. He has stated that it is his “firmly held conviction that the Armenian Genocide is not an allegation, a personal opinion, or a point of view, but rather a widely documented fact supported by an overwhelming body of historical evidence.” He said in Turkey that his views had not changed. In his 24 April proclamation, Obama reaffirmed his recognition of genocide without actually using the term. Both during his visit to Turkey and on April 24, he explicitly called on Turkey to come to terms with the facts of history, that is, the recognition and acceptance of Armenian claims.
Obama’s stance does not augur well for the future of Turkish-American relations. It is one thing to have a personal conviction on a given issue, but it is another thing to allow that personal conviction to dictate a slanted policy toward an important friendly and allied country. Obama claims he is open to dialogue and willing to listen. Yet he is not listening to the Turkish side on the sensitive and highly controversial issue of Armenian claims. Everything regarding this dispute is under contention: events, statistics, documents and the presumed perpetrators. Most significantly, the parties to the case are not in possession of all the facts. It is also ironic that President Obama calls for dialogue on this issue within Turkey where a belated and uneasy debate is in fact taking place rather than on the Armenian side where the subject is sacrosanct, exempt from any discussion.
26 Şubat 2009
Drugs are still the mainstay of the economy, the masses remaining poor with little prospect of improvement in their lot. The NATO mission in the country could be facing failure and the Americans are worried. The state of affairs prevailing in the country calls for urgent attention by the international community to Afghanistan.
United States President Obama has declared the Afghan issue a top priority. Obama has promised to refocus U.S. efforts on Afghanistan. He talks of success in Afghanistan with at least two more U.S. combat brigades, more resources and training for the Afghan Army, and a comprehensive development strategy. He is also calling on his NATO allies for additional troop contributions with fewer restrictions on their deployment and utilization. The European Union is also reassessing its policies on Afghanistan and expressing a desire to work with the new U.S. administration. This is why a major international review of the Afghan situation now is both essential and opportune.
What is the Afghan problem?
Any evaluation of Afghanistan, to be useful and effective, must be comprehensive and not just limited to the security and military aspects of the situation. To do this, first the Afghan problem needs to be put in perspective. The Afghan issue is not merely an Afghan problem. It is part of a more critical nexus of issues of regional and global character. The fulcrum of a potential conflagration with global ramifications has probably shifted to the Afghanistan-Pakistan-India axis. In this context, the first point to take note of is the inextricability of the link between developments in Afghanistan and Pakistan. What the two countries do or refrain from doing regarding each other has powerful consequences for both. How Pakistan behaves also depends, on the other hand, very much on the state of its relations with India. A further fact is that in the context of the global competition for energy and other precious resources, Central Asia represents the next coveted prize. For the United States and the West, Afghanistan is the gateway to that geography. Finally, in both Afghanistan and Pakistan contemporary civilization and radical Islam are at war. The outcome has crucial implications not only for Muslim countries, but also for the rest of the world.
The priority, however, must always be the security and well-being of the Afghan people. It is because securing Afghanistan in both security and socioeconomic terms is also the key to any effort to stabilize the region.
Why the NATO mission should be revitalized
President Obama, even before his election, made Afghanistan a priority issue of his campaign platform. He has since appointed an experienced top diplomat, Richard Holbrook, as his special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Obama plans to send some of the troops withdrawn from Iraq to Afghanistan.
There are presently two operations in Afghanistan. One is the U.S.-led OEF, or Operation Enduring Freedom. The other is the International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, originally established under a 2001 UN mandate, but taken over by NATO in 2003. The international presence, after an initial period of success and hope, is today experiencing problems in Afghanistan. This is why the new U.S. president is urgently asking his NATO allies to send additional troops to Afghanistan.
The Afghan issue was probably the reason that prompted the recent Obama call to President Gül and Prime Minister Erdoğan. He must have asked Turkey to send more troops in addition to the about 800 it already has within ISAF. For understandable reasons, Turkey declined until now. Indeed, in comparative terms, Turkey had done a lot more in Afghanistan than most of its NATO allies. I had supported this position Ğ until recently.
However, the situation is qualitatively different now. The conditions in Afghanistan require urgent action. More troops alone will certainly not be enough to address the ills of Afghanistan. For that, a multi-layered, multi-dimensional approach is needed. Yet without security, there would be little chance to tackle the other challenges of Afghanistan. That is why NATO’s success is vital. Moreover, its failure there could have dire consequences for its future.
As a new president who emphasizes multilateralism and international cooperation, Obama deserves a positive response from friends and allies in the mutual bid to bring security, stability and development to Afghanistan. Concerted action in this first test case would be a good precedent for Obama for similar collaboration on other issues.
As far as Turkey is concerned, there is a more compelling reason why it should say "yes" to additional troop contributions this time around. Turkey has been drifting away from both the EU and NATO the last several years. Turkey’s stand toward the EU and NATO, as properly identified by some experts, are the benchmarks of its Western orientation. Turkey is always a security-conscious power and needs NATO to sustain its over-all security profile. The "yes" should be qualified, barring combat duties for Turkish soldiers, given the special nature of the relationship between Turkey and Afghanistan. The "yes" should also be conditional on troop commitments by other allies. However, a Turkish lead in "more troops for Afghanistan" may not only encourage other allies to do the same, but create an opportunity for the Alliance to rejuvenate itself. Turkey could thus play a key role in helping the NATO alliance pull together at a challenging time. More importantly, it would help Afghanistan’s chances of achieving some degree of stability and security, while preventing a slide back to the Taliban.
In refurbishing their bilateral relationship, Turkey and the United States should also work closely together in developing a new strategy for Afghanistan. Finally, Ankara should again appoint an experienced diplomat to coordinate Turkey’s efforts on Afghanistan to energize its cooperation with the United States and the EU in particular. For Turkey, the issue is no less important than Iraq.
5 Şubat 2009
Yet we must take a closer look at the Davos incident. What does it mean for Turkey domestically, for Turkey’s role in the Middle East, for relations with Arab countries, Israel, the United States and Europe, and lastly, for links between politics and diplomacy?
What was important about Davos was not that Erdoğan left the panel, but rather what he said about Israel. It is true that the moderator’s conduct of the panel was a disaster. It is also true that the demeanor of President Peres was uncalled for and provocative. It was clear therefore that Erdoğan had a right to reply that the moderator did not allow him to exercise fully.
However, none of this changes the fact that Erdoğan had decided to have a showdown with Peres before he arrived in Davos. None of this alters the fact that the Davos performance was not an isolated event, but the latest link in the chain of Erdoğan’s foreign policy preferences, reflecting his world outlook based on his faith.
Some time before he left for Switzerland, he declared to his party’s parliamentary group that in Davos he would drill Peres with tough questions on Gaza. The Turkish media has just reported that the Gaza panel was a later addition to the Davos program at the request of the Turkish delegation. Erdoğan’s eruption therefore was not an impulsive reaction. It was part of a prior decision to be the voice of Hamas and Gaza and to take an uncompromising stand against Israel. The circumstances, particularly the moderator’s mismanagement, paved the way for Erdoğan’s actions. However, even if he had stayed on, the outcome would not have been much different because not his actions, but his words made the difference. His public display of anger and defiance enhanced only the stage effect of his words.
Domestically, Erdoğan’s popularity probably received a significant boost, but how and if this will affect the upcoming local elections remains to be seen. The more important consequence for Turkey is likely to follow in making Erdoğan even more adamant in the righteousness and wisdom of his views. There will be many in and outside Turkey to portray Erdoğan as the "leader of the Islamic world." What this means for Turkey, especially if the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, emerges victorious in local elections, is a crucial question mark for near future of Turkish politics.
One other equally significant domestic fallout could be greater anti-Israeli feelings and stronger perceptions into anti-Semitism. Criticism of Israeli policies toward Arab states and Palestinians has been a familiar feature in Turkish politics but its substance and tone have grown more virulent, more one-sided and increasingly more embedded in a religious garb. It is as if the Middle East conflict is not between Arabs and Israelis, but one between Muslims and Jews.
The problem is that the line between being against Israel and being anti-Semitic is very thin and readily bridgeable in a country like Turkey where emotions and psychology always ride high. Let us criticize Israel, but let us not turn it into a religious or racial issue.
The ramifications of Davos for Turkey’s foreign relations are just as important as its domestic implications. Erdoğan is certainly a hero in Gaza and Iran has warmly praised him along with others in the Arab world. Being popular in the streets of Arab and other Muslim countries is important, especially for a leader of Turkey, a country viewed with a mixture of envy and suspicion because of its secular democracy. Nevertheless, it is an asset that can by enjoyed, but not spent. The call to Erdoğan to turn his immense street support toward influencing Hamas to adopt a moderate stance is unrealistic and unwarranted. Hamas will not change its policies on Turkey’s request.
The Davos event probably intensified the various polarities in the region. It will be more difficult to bring Palestinian factions together now that Hamas feels it has the backing of Turkey in addition to Iran. Without Palestinian unity, an Israel-Palestine agreement is impossible. The gap between Hamas and Israel widened after the recent Israeli atrocities in Gaza and Erdoğan is not helping to reduce it. Moreover, from now on Israel may be less willing for Turkey to have a frontline role in the Middle East peace process.
The clearest fallout of Davos, however, is the further erosion of the relationship between the U.S. Jewish lobby and Erdoğan. Only a few years ago, the Jewish lobby was bestowing high honors on him. Today, the top five leading Jewish organizations have addressed a letter to him about their concerns for his criticism of Israel, the insecurity of the Jewish community and the suggested rise of anti-Semitism in Turkey. The strain is real and serious. The Jewish lobby is by far the most powerful and is the only one that supports Turkey. The Jewish lobby only has to do nothing to hurt Turkish interests. Without Jewish support of Turkey, Armenian resolutions would enjoy their best chance ever to pass U.S. Congress.
Israel will draw its own conclusions from Davos. It is clear the relationship is not what it was several years ago, but it is still too important for Israel to risk further deterioration. Ties with Israel are valuable for Turkey as well. What will happen next depends on what leaders on both sides do and say. Erdoğan is likely to maintain his pro-Hamas narrative while Israel will continue to refuse to deal with Hamas. This might place additional strains on Turkish-Israeli ties.
Any bumps in the Turkish-Israeli relationship will affect Turkey’s ties with the United States. President Obama’s special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell canceled his visit to Turkey after the Davos episode. If the Armenian resolutions pass through congress, the Turkish public will blame Israel and the U.S. Jewish lobby. Their passage will cause extensive damage to Turkish-American relations, which in turn could lead to new tensions between Turkey and Israel. Turkey’s potential to play a substantial role in the Middle East will have been significantly reduced. Arab leaders are unlikely to leave the stage to Turkey and President Mahmud Abbas and Fatah likely to be more reticent to Turkish mediation efforts. If true, then the importance to the United States of the Turkish-American partnership could be undermined as well.
The Davos affair is not going to help Turkey’s relations with Europe either. Erdoğan is well-known in the European Union and has been applauded for Turkey’s activism in the Middle East. His Davos eruption, however, even if justified, was met with dismay. In Western eyes, Erdoğan did not act like a prime minister of a country in the Euro-Atlantic community. The image was that Turkey is a country of its region, that it belongs there and that it acts so. The Davos fallout dovetails with the perceived slowdown in Turkey’s reforms and will not augur well for the accession process.
The immediate cost of the Davos affair, however, is evident and real. There were at least two notable losses. One was the opportunity not seized by Erdoğan to exercise leadership and diplomacy on that unique platform at Davos. Were he to offer Turkey’s own ideas resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict as he criticized Israel, it would have served everybody’s interests well. He could have emerged as a world leader admired for his positive courage and wisdom. Erdoğan chose the opposite path.
The second loss incurred in connection with a meeting between Erdoğan and the Armenian president. It took place under the shadow of the Gaza panel incident and apparently did not bear the fruit it could have under normal conditions. Turkey’s hand in trying to prevent Armenian resolutions in the U.S. Congress may therefore be weaker in the months ahead.
Finally, a word about the relationship between politics and diplomacy. Erdoğan, in trying to justify his behavior at Davos, said he is a politician and does not care for the niceties of diplomacy. He implies he has no use for diplomats. However, diplomacy predates politics. Diplomacy resolves conflicts. Conflicts are resolved at the table, not in the streets or by politicians. Did Erdoğan not engage in diplomacy by holding a press conference immediately afterward?
We are a blessed nation because we have outstanding diplomats who are dedicated to their country and are exceptionally skillful in defending our national interests. In the aftermath of Davos, Turkey might be facing some new problems. I therefore suspect Turkish diplomats will again be very busy in picking up the pieces and doing extra time in the months ahead!
29 Aralık 2008
After an extended campaign, Turkey has won a seat on the U.N. Security Council, or UNSC, and will serve there for two years starting on Jan. 1, 2009. This is the fourth time that Turkey becomes a UNSC member, but the first in almost 50 years.
It is thus timely to examine the role international organizations have played for Turkey’s foreign policy over the years, as well as the role of Turkey in these organizations. To understand the significance and the challenges of Turkey holding a UNSC seat for the upcoming two years, one must also take into consideration the current regional and global upheavals.
Among the primary instruments that nation-states utilize in the pursuit of their foreign policy objectives are international organizations. They are also the venue for the adjudication of differing national positions on regional and international issues.
Turkey's record in international organizations
More importantly, they regulate matters in their specific areas, such as health, environment and trade, within their competence. Hence, international organizations are a vital part of our lives. As the process of globalization accelerates and interdependence increases, the number and authority of international organizations is likely to grow.
Turkey has always been a country for which international organizations have held a special significance. Turkey’s historical record is an outstanding one, being among the founding members of most of the leading international organizations. Among them are the United Nations, the Council of Europe, Organization of the Islamic Conference, or OIC, Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, Economic Cooperation Organization, Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization, or BSEC, and D-8 Organization for Economic Cooperation.
Turkey has also initiated the establishment of a number of regional organizations, past and present. Most recently, Turkey launched the idea of a Caucasus Peace and Stability Platform to address the problems of this critical region. Turkey’s record in terms of its performance as a member of the various international organizations is also noteworthy; Turkey pays its dues, contributes to the United Nations, NATO and OSCE-led peace-keeping, peace-making, conflict resolution activities and operations, and abides by the rulings of the courts.
Turkey’s performance in terms of providing international civil servants, especially in high positions, however, has been rather poor. In recent years, the only notable exception is Kemal Derviş as head of the United Nations Development Programme, or UNDP. The reason is that Turkey has not encouraged, nor actively sought, the placement of its officials as civil servants in international organizations.
Turkey's unique position
Turkey’s location and history are the factors that put Turkey in a unique position in terms of its membership in international organizations. It enjoys a multiplicity of geographically diverse memberships in a large number of organizations. On the one hand, Turkey is a member of the major Western/Euro-Atlantic organizations: NATO, OECD, OSCE, Council of Europe, seeking European Union accession.
At the same time, Turkey has membership or observer status in most of the important non-Western organizations: OIC, observer status in the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council. Turkey is a member of the G-20 Group on the one hand and of the D-8 on the other. Turkey is associated with the EU-led initiatives on the Mediterranean, while at the same time playing host to BSEC.
An interesting footnote in this regard is that Turkey is the only U.N. member with simultaneous membership in two geographic groups, the Asian Group and the Western and Other States Group, or WEOG. Turkey’s candidacies for various United Nations organs are from the WEOG.
The same factors of geography and history are, however, also responsible for keeping Turkey out of major international arrangements. Turkey is one of just several countries that has not signed or ratified the Law of the Sea. The long-standing disputes in the Aegean have prevented Turkey from joining this convention. Similarly, Turkey has refrained from being a party to the treaty of the International Criminal Court based on fear that the Court might undermine Turkey’s fight against terrorism.
International organizations have always been an important instrument and element of Turkish foreign policy. Turkey’s past record and its advantages emanating from its history and geographic location place Turkey in a uniquely promising position in international organizations.
This enables Turkey to pursue its own national objectives while serving the cause of peace, security and stability in different parts of the world. Its presence in diverse organizations allows Turkey to act as a conduit of communication and improving the quality of understanding among their members.
Turkish foreign policy in international organizations
UNSC membership will permit Turkey to bring its historical depth, its power of its geopolitical value and the tenets of its foreign policy to bear on the deliberations and decisions of the UNSC the next two years. Turkey will make a positive contribution to the work of the UNSC, given its commitments to security, stability and the peaceful resolution of conflicts. UNSC membership will enhance Turkey’s prestige and help improve its image across the globe.
There are also potential risks for Turkey. Turkish foreign policy makers thread a thin, delicate line in a series of important regional and transnational issues. This is the case with regard to such matters as Iraq, Iran and its nuclear program, the Middle East conflict, the Russia-Georgia dispute, the Nagorno Karabagh problem, the Cyprus question and the disputes with Greece over the Aegean. So long as one follows a policy without having to make hard choices, one can play for time and avoid the necessity of taking sides. As most of these conflicts remain unresolved, Turkey may often find itself in a position where it will increasingly have to make clear preferences in favor of one or the other party.
This will simply be inescapable when any of these issues are voted upon in the UNSC. It is worth noting that voting on the same issues in the U.N. General Assembly is different from voting on them in the U.N. Security Council because of the fact that the UNSC decisions are binding while General Assembly resolutions are not.
The proposed risk does not imply that Turkey’s foreign policy is not principled, it is. However, sitting at the UNSC in the 2009 to 2010 period will surely be a new experience for Turkey. All the issues handled by Turkey in Ankara and in its foreign missions abroad are to obtain a different coloring for Turkish diplomats as a member of the Security Council. The road Turkey is going to travel may not always be smooth.
Another exacerbating factor that will test the foreign policy of Turkey in the near future is the probable escalation of the major conflicts in the regions surrounding Turkey. The world economic crisis should compound the severity of political conflicts.
Turkey is likely to face increasingly tough choices as a NATO member, a partner of the United States and as a country aspiring for EU accession when it comes to issues like Iran, relations with Russia and access of non-littoral states to the Black Sea. Oil and natural gas pipeline projects as well as the intention to build a nuclear power station will present Turkey with choices that will have deep and lasting foreign policy implications.
In short, Turkey is looking at a period of difficult foreign policy decisions in the next several years at a time when its domestic situation is also undergoing rapid change.
Dr. Ö. Faruk Loğoğlu is a retired diplomat who served in the foreign service of Turkey for over 35 years; his last post was as ambassador to the United States. This piece of Loğoğlu was published in the Turkish Policy Quarterly’s Summer 2008 edition.