6 Temmuz 2009
It has been more than two months since Turkey and Armenia have announced their agreement on a road map, a key document that was not yet made public but is supposed to detail the modalities and timetable of the much-expected normalization process between the two countries. Due to growing unease in Azerbaijan, Turkey had to declare that the road map would enter into force Ğ open the border and establish diplomatic ties Ğ only after Baku and Yerevan agree on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Recent statements from Baku and Yerevan indicate that the parties are getting closer to an interim agreement in months, if not weeks. The issue will also be on the agenda of U.S. President Barack Obama who will pay an important visit to Moscow this week. Such an agreement will not only constitute a major step for stabilizing the entire region but also a relief for Turkey to save itself from the pressure of Baku.
It is obvious that Turkey will even not lift a finger before an agreement is reached between Armenia and Azerbaijan. But is it a correct stance? Wouldn’t Turkey use this time to work to prepare a more suitable environment, inside and outside the country, for the normalization of ties?
There is a lot to do with his regard. At home, in fact, the government seems more ready as it is about to launch special television and radio channels that will broadcast in Armenian under the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation, or TRT. Distributing free textbooks to the minority schools is another positive step taken in this regard.
Abroad, however, there are important challenges that Turkey has to deal, especially when considered that the Armenian diaspora Ğ especially in France and the United States, where the diaspora is most powerful Ğ has not yet been convinced for the historic deal.
Some French officials and experts I had the opportunity to talk to during a visit to France mid June said that the people of Armenia were in fact afraid that the diaspora could block the rapprochement process between Turkey and Armenia.
"To keep the diaspora out of the process is a demand we hear quite often in Yerevan," an expert stated. "Turkey and France could co-operate to eliminate this risk in France. Because there is a big interest for France to deal with this issue. They would be supporting the process."
It would be considered as a legitimate and realistic concern but do all members of the diaspora think the same way? "The most vocal Armenian diaspora is anti-Turkey, anti-rapprochement and super-extremist on the genocide. But we don’t know what the rest is thinking about the process. Therefore we can’t really say what French Armenians do think about it," said Dorothe Schmid, head of the Turkish Studies Program at French Institute of the International Relations.
That indicates that instead of trying totally keeping the diaspora out of the process, through dialogue with the moderate groups, they could be taken within the rapprochement. Of course, Turkey cannot do it alone; in France it needs the support of French government and in the United States of both the administration and the influential top ranking figures, like former politicians, diplomats. In France, it won’t be an easy job. France recognized the alleged genocide in 2000 and tried hard to punish its denial, which still effects bilateral ties with Turkey. That’s why contributing to Ankara-Yerevan process in a concrete way could also be in the benefit of France. It’s not to our information whether there is a sort of initiative taken by Turkish Embassy in France, though I have heard that some international non-governmental organizations and think tanks applied to the embassy for offering joint projects to this end. Some of them already submitted projects papers detailing ways to help the reconciliation of the peoples of Turkey and Armenia.
My observation is that the embassy should be much more open and receptive to all different groups of the French society. I don’t say merely just because a request of mine for a meeting at the embassy was refused but a number of people who are closely watching Turkey have the similar complaints.
Our embassy would have not much difference than the North Korean Embassy in Paris if it does not change this behind-closed-doors course.
8 Haziran 2009
It has been nearly six months since Egemen Bağış was appointed the state minister responsible for the European Union affairs and chief negotiator, a move that was applauded by many, as he was the first minister whose sole task was to deal with the country’s full membership to the union. Without forgetting the fact that the admission of one candidate country to the EU requires the contribution of all political parties, nongovernmental organizations, the media and etc., we should once again underscore the role of the chief negotiator to push the country for the membership.
Along with other prominent journalists, we had the opportunity to listen to Bağış last week for around two hours at a luncheon he hosted for the Ankara representatives of the media outlets. He was frank, outspoken in conveying his political messages but at the same time was poor in giving the technical dimension of the negotiations. Perhaps, it was speaking for itself, in the meaning that "the political side of the negotiations was well in front of its technicality due to both sides’, Turkey and the EU’s, preferences." During the meeting, a colleague advised Bağış to drive the technical aspect of the negotiations forward to create "a better environment for consensus among different political parties," and to refrain from accusing former governments and politicians for the postponement of the decades-old talks with the EU.
"I am a politician. It’s my nature. I am a member of a political party that received the votes of nearly 18 million people in the elections," Bağış replied, without hiding his discomfort with the question. "As for the technical aspects of the talks, our ambassadors and technocrats are already working very successfully É I would disrespect both our bureaucrats and politicians if I would engage in its technicality," he added.
We do of course respect how Bağış categorizes himself and his duties but we do consider that a great portion of the problem with the sustainability of the negotiations lies in there. Turkey has been a candidate since 1999 and a negotiating candidate since 2005. Putting aside the Cyprus problem and its side effects, Turkey’s process is now a technical one and requires a lot of attention and political engagement.
In his capacity, Mr. Bağış has to become the architect of this comprehensive engagement, securing the contribution of all segments of society for the EU membership. He should not be divisive but embracing them. Of course, it takes two to tango: those who feel responsible for the modernization of this country should back Bağış and be open for an open dialogue in this end.
Apart from these points, what I have often heard from the foreign diplomats whose countries have recently joined the EU was that their chief negotiators have become somehow "one of the most hated people in their respective countries." The reason was that the negotiators were putting too much pressure on the cabinet members and bureaucrats to speed up the works for overcoming the benchmarks required to open new negotiation chapters. We sure don’t have to exaggerate and expect the same attitude from our chief negotiator. But we are right in increasing the bar for Bağış, considering his good relationship with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as a very suitable tool for speeding up the pace of the talks.
Interesting information Bağış has shared with us was the reason why the government has postponed the amendment of the Law on Trade Unions, a benchmark to open the chapter on social policies. According to Bağış, all relevant parties, the workers’ unions, the employers’ unions, trade chambers and etc. agreed to postpone talks in order not to cause a new tension in the country, especially at a time when the country was dealing with an economic crisis. "We have respected to their decisions," Bağış stated. There will be more and more of these sorts of dilemmas in the future, as Turkey will have to face harder chapters. Bağış should wisely navigate this process and should be convincing all concerned parties that "the entire country should focus on not today’s interests but of the future’s." We’ll sure discuss the modalities of the law on trade unions, and perhaps there will be a lot of tension but postponement will not be a remedy.
Transition processes are not easy times. That could only be successful with a healthy communication strategy that would include all parts of the society to the process, making clear that sooner is better. That’s what we could expect from Bağış as chief negotiator.
25 Mayıs 2009
For the record, let’s recall the message that Bernard Fassier, the French co-chairman of the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has given Ankara on the relation between efforts to solve the Nagorno-Karabakh talks and to normalize Turkey-Armenia ties, during his visit last week. "Turkey-Armenia talks and international efforts to solve Nagorno-Karabakh talks are two different tracks. They are parallel and trying to create links between these two tracks would not be productive." Fassier’s warning came just a week after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan linked these two issues to each other, making explicit that Turkey’s condition to open the border with Armenia was the withdrawal of Armenian troops from the regions surrounding the Nagorno-Karabakh.
In fact, the United States and the European Union countries also shared Fassier’s warnings. There is a growing concern among them that the reconciliation process between Turkey and Armenia will be shelved and the Road Map announced on April 22, will totally be forgotten, if Azerbaijan and Armenia cannot reach an agreement soon.
But the mood in Ankara is somehow different to this. "There are 2-3 different processes in the region. What we seek is to reach a comprehensive peace agreement covering entire region," a high-level foreign ministry official has said right after Fassier’s meetings here.
"There are realities of this region. Each issue is linked to each other, this way or another. Minsk Group should definitely move forward towards an agreement on Nagorno-Karabakh. Otherwise, the region will not be very much peaceful," official added. "For the progress on the Road Map, we should observe the same in Nagorno-Karabakh talks."
From Ankara’s point of view, the first reality highlighted is that Turkey cannot give up of its strategic relations with Azerbaijan. The alliance of these two countries in the region constitutes an important bond to reduce Russia’s influence on the region. That brings about the second reality for Turkey. To keep Azerbaijan on the Western front and diminish Russian interferences to Baku. Not only for political reasons but also securing non-Russian options for transiting Caspian gas and oil to European markets. The third reality is that it will take at least five years to solve the Nagorno-Karabakh problem. Though the Minsk Group is pressing Armenia and Azerbaijan to deal on an interim agreement, the withdrawal of the occupied regions, the return of Azeri people to their original regions and the reaching a compromise on the final status will take years. Another reality for Ankara is that "the efforts for the recognition of the Armenian genocide by the third countries" will continue to be a huge problem for Turkey.
Question mark on minds
All such rhetoric of Ankara puts a question mark in the minds here on Turkish government’s sincerity for reconciliation. If not this, it gives the impression that Turkish government ignores some other realities of the region.
There is no alternative to the peace, a reality that was proven last summer during unexpected the Russia-Georgia war. This war has proven the vulnerability of all Caucasus countries, including Turkey.
As for Armenia, its 60 percent of imports and exports were cut as its only link to world markets, Yerevan-Tbilisi highway and railway, were no longer available due to the war. Its connection to the world was depending on the existence of a bridge in Georgian territories. Furthermore, the status quo cost too much for Armenia, as Azerbaijan and Turkey have isolated it for years. That’s why Russia agreed to lend Armenia $500 million to help Yerevan withstand the economic crisis.
As for Azerbaijan, they realized that the safe flows of oil via Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan and of natural gas via Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum pipelines were not guaranteed forever. An explosion in the territory of Georgia or British Petroleum’s decision to withdraw its pipeline experts from Georgia due to the crisis would affect severely the utilization of the pipeline.
Azerbaijan would be obliged to accept to use Russian pipeline network to carry its oil to Novorosisk or to make Swap agreements with Iran, something Turkey would not be happy to see. Another reality for Azerbaijan is thay can no longer consider the use of military force for the solution of its dispute with Armenia after witnessing what has happened in Georgia.
And for Turkey, the halt of the gas and oil would dramatically change the nature of realities of the region. Preserving the status quo and postponing peace agreements will only work for the advantage of Russia, a reality one cannot ignore. Another reality is that the EU’s growing interest to the Caucasus and beyond. Through France’s Fassier, the EU is gearing up in the region for both regional political stability and of course securing energy supplies. Turkish deviation from this line will obviously not be in advantage of the EU-candidate Turkey. Considering the realities listed above, it’s no doubt that Turkey should revise its regional policy, in a way to balance its relations with Azerbaijan and reconciliation process with Armenia and to advise so to its ally Azerbaijan as well.
18 Mayıs 2009
The current status of the Turkish-Greek ties is really not very promising. The momentum needed to further improve relations is lost. Instead, a silent war escalating over the Aegean has been observed in recent months. Both sides accuse the other of making provocations through violations of air space and territorial waters. According to the Turkish Armed Forces, or TSK’s, Web site, Turkish aircraft were intercepted by Greek air forces in 161 separate incidents since the beginning of this year, clearly showing that not a single day passes without a dangerous dog fight occurring over Aegean. On the other hand, Greece says the flights by Turkish jets over Greek populated residential areas nearly doubled on last year.
On the sea, the situation is relatively calm compared to in the air. The TSK says on its Web site that Turkish territorial waters were violated by Greek vessels 18 times in the same period. This picture is dangerous for both sides and does not fit with their commitments to NATO as full members since 1952. Only a couple of years ago a Greek combat pilot died as a result of a dog fight with a Turkish aircraft. This sad and horrifying incident kicked started the parties to enlarge the confidence building measures, CBMs, with new initiatives like establishing a direct red line between the command headquarters in Turkey’s Eskişehir and Greece’s Larissa. In recent years, as a result of new steps taken by both governments, the total number of CBMs rose to 19. But, apparently, they are far from working effectively to reduce the tension.
In 2007 and in the first half of 2008, high level political and military visits were frequently made, including Costas Karamanlis who became the first Greek prime minister to visit Ankara in an official visit in 49 years. Nearly a year ago Greece’s top general paid a visit to Ankara, in response to his Turkish counterpart who went to Athens in 2007.
In addition to all this, political directors of the two countries’ foreign ministries, accompanied by military representatives, met 41 times since 2002 to explore the problems stemming from the Aegean Sea. There is no need to say that these meetings turned into a platform where the parties repeated their known and decades-old positions with regard to the territorial waters, air space etc.
According to the experts, the only way to change this course is new political guidance. For many here, as the local elections are over and a new foreign minister, who introduced the very concept of zero-problem-with-neighbors-policy, has been appointed in Turkey, the right time has come for renewing this guidance.
There are reports that the diplomatic traffic between Turkey and Greece will be reinforced in the next months as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is expected to visit Athens. It’s also possible for Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, who did not hide her support of the zero-problem policy, to come to Turkey in the coming months upon Ahmet Davutoğlu’s invitation.
These meetings will compose a suitable climate for two neighbors to capture the much-wanted solace in the region.
That makes Erdoğan’s Friday statement in Poland more meaningful: "Greece’s approach to Turkey’s membership to the European Union has always been positive. Turkey’s relations with both the Greek government and its opposition are good. We had good contact with both former prime ministers Simitis and Papandreu. Then my dear friend Karamanlis came (to power). We have good relations with his as well. We also have developed better ties between our families. At the moment, Greece supports Turkey’s EU membership."
Erdoğan’s message to Athens on the eve of his expected visit is a good step taken in the direction of activating politics for the solution of the Aegean problems. The main responsibility in avoiding deadly dog fighting incidents or Kardak-Imia sort of disputes, that brought two neighbors to the brink of war in 1996, lies on the shoulders of the politicians of both sides.
They should come up with a new creative proposal to replace never-ending, futile exploratory meetings with a new mechanism that would not walk around the problems. They should even consider the arbitration of a third party or an international court to address this problem.
It’s also a requirement for the architect, Davutoğlu, and his follower, Bakoyannis, to merge their energy and creativity to this end.
11 Mayıs 2009
The appointment of Ahmet Davutoğlu will occupy many of us for some more time, no doubt. In his first comprehensive speech to European Union ambassadors on the occasion of the Europe Day on May 9, Davutoğlu has proven that his selection as the chief of Turkish diplomacy was right. However, this piece will not examine Davutoğlu’s diplomacy or prospects about the future of some very important challenges awaiting the country ahead. But rather, it will try to decipher how his appointment would change the roles of the senior government officials and even of President Abdullah Gül.
Davutoğlu had enjoyed a very comfortable position between 2002 and 2009, until he became the minister. He was the main behind-the-scene figure shaping Turkish foreign policy with the advantage of being so close to both Gül (when he was foreign minister) and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The election of Gül and Ali Babacan’s appointment as his successor did not change the system much. Davutoğlu was again at the center of the foreign policy but Gül’s influence did increase in line with his new position as the head of the state.
But with Davutoğlu becoming the foreign minister, this picture is likely to be altered in a way that would result in a lighter position for Gül in the guidance of the foreign policy. (It’s no secret that President Gül’s some initiatives in the foreign policy disturbed Erdoğan. Meeting with the non-governmental organizations and state institutions to push the EU talks, giving the image of the mastermind of talks with Yerevan in his historical visit to this country could be listed as some unilateral attempts of Gül.)
Therefore Davutoğlu’s promotion to this seat would work toward Erdoğan’s advantage for two reasons. The first is that Davutoğlu will obviously seek cooperation with the presidency but will not let him steal his role, which would lessen presidential influence over government’s foreign policy. The second is that Davutoğlu’s entry, along with Bülent Arınç and Ömer Dinçer, two influential personalities of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, would strengthen Erdoğan’s hands in the cabinet. A stronger cabinet would always be in the advantage of Erdoğan.
The current picture of politics does tell us that Gül could focus on two top issues apart from many others: Using his presidential influence for the new constitution and focusing on more energy diplomacy. Without forgetting the fact that there is still confusion over Gül’s tenure in his office, the constitutional amendments will be one of president’s priorities afterward. His last week meetings with the leaders of the opposition who already stated their coldness toward an AKP-made constitution could be seen as a starter. He is also expected to hold soon a meeting with Prime Minister Erdoğan on this issue to express his own impression he got from the opposition. In a way he will mediate between the government and opposition.
The second thing Gül could do is to focus more on energy diplomacy, just like he did in two consecutive energy summits in Sofia and Prague. With the appointment of Taner Yıldız as the new energy minister, Gül will surely feel more comfortable in this field too. With an active diplomacy in this field, like former president Süleyman Demirel did in 1990s, would bring him an international reputation and Turkey another international pipeline network to chain it to Europe firmly.
29 Nisan 2009
Last week’s international energy summit in Sofia, Bulgaria refreshed hopes for the construction of Nabucco pipeline, which was turned into a long-winded story due to its political complexity and multibillion dollar cost. The leaders from 28 European, Caspian and Central Asian countries as well as major gas producers took part at the meeting titled "Natural Gas for Europe, Security and Partnership" and tried hard to give momentum to the project, designed to carry Caspian gas to central Europe via Turkey. Besides so many other reasons of the delay of the realization of the Nabucco, this piece will examine the ones stemming from Turkey. The completion of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline opened a new chapter in Turkey’s vision for future role of being a regional energy hub. Exerting efforts to have all pipelines pass through its territory, making alliances with all source and consumer countries, using every opportunity to be at the center of energy set upÉ and doing all of them at the same time without making any rational planning were simply the elements of this policy.
Among many other shortcomings on the way to realize this end, Turkey failed in gaining the confidence of source countries (Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan), consumer countries (Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary) and the European Union. Considering that "energy security" is the key concept of future links and partnerships, the gravity of the wrong policies become more obvious.
On this policy’s negative results over relations with source countries, Turkey’s stance with regard to the Nabucco project and Azerbaijan is a good example. For some time, Turkey tried convince all related countries to start the Nabucco pipeline from Turkish territory, to make itself the main dealer of Azerbaijani gas. According to this original plan, Turkey would buy gas from Azerbaijan at a reasonable price and would sell it to rich European countries at a profitable price. Good planning, but obviously did not work! Turkey’s growing aggressive policy did also have impacts on European countries, the main consumers of the Caspian reserves. In a recent report prepared by an independent think tank, Council of Foreign Relations, or CFR, on Eurasian energy security, Turkey was depicted as "one of the main obstacles before the Nabucco."
"Turkey continues to block progress on negotiations for a common legal framework that would allow the pipeline to move forward. Meanwhile, many southeastern European states are wary of Ankara’s pivotal role. In essence, their complaints about Turkey echo those of Ukraine and Belarus about Russia: their larger neighbor has been willing to cut energy supplies to extract political concessions. Countries like Greece, Bulgaria, and Hungary fear increasing their reliance on Turkey and see South Stream, which would run beneath the Black Sea before coming ashore at Varna, Bulgaria, as a way of diversifying their gas supplies by reducing dependence on Ankara," it read.
Indeed, Turkish government did their best to scare all three of these EU members with its pivotal role, which sometimes went beyond its aims. It was only few months ago when Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had threatened the EU of not allowing the passage of the Nabucco pipeline from the country’s soils if the union would not open the chapter on energy of the full membership negotiations. Though he backtracked, as usual, on his statement, Erdoğan did succeed in leaving a giant question mark in the minds of European countries over Turkey’s role in the energy supply.The only way for Turkey to rebuild its tarnished image is to take steps to win the trust of these countries. To do so, it should revise its entire energy policy. Otherwise, it will have to say farewell to its hopes for becoming an energy hub and will remain dependent to Russia forever.
20 Nisan 2009
Before proceeding with the current situation, let’s first put a brief late history of the Turkish-Armenian normalization process. After some unfruitful meetings between the foreign ministers of Turkey and Armenia, namely Abdullah Gül and Vartan Oskanian in 2003 and 2004 on the margins of international summits, Turkey officially proposed in 2005 to Armenia the establishment of a joint commission composed of historians and experts from both countries to study the incidents of 1915. The mastermind of the proposal, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, repeatedly said Turkey would accept the scientific results of the study, adding the country was sure of itself and its history.
In response to the Turkish proposal, former Armenian President Robert Kocharian, a hardliner, offered Turkey to set up an intergovernmental commission to study not only the incidents of 1915 but also the ways to restore diplomatic ties and open the border.
This exchange of proposals did not produce an imminent breakthrough but obviously helped create a suitable environment for both countries to move forward. Especially Armenia’s proposal of broadening the scope and mission of the joint commissions was seen as a good start.
Even though Turkey was initially aiming to nix the recognition of 1915 mass killings as genocide by third countries’ parliaments, especially by the United States House of Representatives, the process has matured afterward. Between 2006 and 2008, diplomats from the two countries held a series of secret talks in various cities in Europe and worked on the modalities of the establishment of these commissions. This course of silent diplomacy turned into a "public diplomacy" only after Turkey and Armenia’s national teams found themselves in the same qualifying group for the 2010 World Football Championship.
On Sept 5, last year, President Abdullah Gül paid a landmark visit to Yerevan to watch the match upon the invitation of his Armenian counterpart Serge Sarkisian. Gül and Sarkisian met more than two hours and instructed their foreign ministers to continue to talks over the night. Both sides seemed satisfied of the content of the meetings and hinted "talks at the technical and diplomatic level will continue."
No doubt, Gül and other Turkish officials were informing Azerbaijan about the meetings, probably assuring them Ankara will not take any steps that would hurt the interests of Baku with regard to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
The election of Barack Obama as the president of the U.S. and the strengthened democratic majority in the House did raise concerns here and at the same time led to speeding up the process.
That’s why the expectations that between March 29, the local elections, and April 24, the day that commemorates the events in 1915, the parties will declare "a document," a protocol or memorandum or understanding or anything written, to show their commitment to finalizing the talks. Obama’s visit to Turkey had also an important effect on the rise of these expectations and also criticisms from Azerbaijan.
In the light of Foreign Minister Ali Babacan’s last week visit to Yerevan, one can assume that "there will be no an easy breakthrough on the Armenian-Turkey front." Here are some reasons for that:
First is the indispensably internationalization of the bilateral efforts. Turkey and Armenia started this process on their own and improved it a lot. Obama’s meeting with Turkish and Armenian foreign ministers in Istanbul and his expostulatory statements did obviously result in the inclusion of Washington to the process.
Concerned by the American intrusion, Azerbaijan rushed to get Russian support to block Turkey to reconcile with Armenia before the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute is settled. Azerbaijan also threatened Turkey and rest of Europe to nix their plans to build the Nabucco pipeline, a project that would save Europe from its dependency to Russia.
The second point was the Turkish government’s failure in keeping two tracks, the Turkish-Armenian and Nagorno-Karabakh peace talks, parallel. In January, Azerbaijan openly expressed its discomfort with the fact that Turkish-Armenian process was going well ahead of the Nagorno-Karabakh efforts and that could cause real problems. Additionally, when approached to open border with Turkey, there would be not many incentives for Armenia to compromise in the Nagorno-Karabakh talks. This is the point where Turkey lost control and left it to the flow of developments, mainly directed from the United States.
Consequently, Turkish-Armenian reconciliation will have to wait until the Nagorno-Karabakh problem is solved. It’s in fact an obligation of a coherent foreign policy to wait until the removal of the cause that led to seal the border with Armenia in 1993.
9 Nisan 2009
Barack Obama’s historic address to the Turkish Parliament does not only herald the new era between the two countries but also reveals how Washington places this secular democracy with a predominantly Muslim population "at the center of the new world order." The devastating global economic crisis, the damage given to the world affairs by previous United States administration, the deepening intolerance, and the increasing number of conflicts between different religious and ethnic groups in the world sparked leaders, academics and prominent intellectuals around the world to consider the ways to stop this course. In addition to these problems, the rise of new powers such as India, China, Brazil and even Turkey complicates the scheme of international policies as the center of gravity is now more flexible and subject to further unexpected changes. And the election of Barack Obama, the symbol of change in the world’s only superpower, was another factor for a promising future for the world, through a new order established by the contributions of all countries and international organizations.
In fact, Obama’s trip to Europe and Turkey was an important step in this direction. He first participated in the G20 summit in London to deal with the economic crisis. Then, at the NATO summit, he contributed to the planning of the new security design of the Euro-Atlantic region and beyond. In Prague, he attended another multilateral meeting, something he promised during the election campaign. All were in line with his pursuit of changing the world order with a one that foresees stability, peace, dialogue and, of course, democracy.
Thus, adding Turkey to this tour perfectly matches with this purpose and helps carry this message to the greater Muslim people of the world. Here is how Obama formulated this in his speech to Parliament on Monday:
"Now, our two democracies are confronted by an unprecedented set of challenges. An economic crisis that recognizes no borders. Extremism that leads to the killing of innocent men, women and children. Strains on our energy supply and a changing climate. The proliferation of the world’s deadliest weapons, and the persistence of tragic conflict. These are the great tests of our young century. And the choices that we make in the coming years will determine whether the future will be shaped by fear or by freedom; by poverty or by prosperity; by strife or by a just, secure and lasting peace."
It’s where Obama places Turkey in his conceptualization of the new world order. That’s why he prefers to call Turkey a "critical ally" and suggests a new model partnership. Apparently, it would not be surprising to see Turkey playing a key role in the international arena during Obama’s tenure. But this role tailored for Turkey will also bring challenges and responsibilities. As for the responsibilities, it’s time to recall the words of a U.S. academic who visited Ankara just before Obama’s visit: "International policies are changing. The new powers are rising. The problem is whether these powers will be democratic or authoritarian, sharing modern values or opposing to them." That is, Turkey will play its role as long as it abides by the universal principles of democracy and human rights and it continues to make progress in this way. It’s an indirect message to the government to review its policies and practices.
But it’s just the beginning. The real test will be on foreign policy. The accordance with U.S. policies and the level of cooperation with international organizations will be closely watched.
In Afghanistan, Turkey will have to do more in order not to disappoint Obama, who said: "We must achieve our goals together. I appreciate that you have offered to help us train and support Afghan Security Forces, and expand opportunity across the region. Together, we can rise to meet this challenge like we have so many before." On Iran, Iraq, etc. Washington would not be very happy to hear jarring voices from its closest allies. On Armenia, urged by Obama to complete an agreement soon, Turkey has no left luxury to leave the table. Which results in less room for maneuvers for Turkey with regard its foreign policy implementations. It won’t be an easy term for Turkey; it will often have to take tough decisions.