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An Appraisal of the Turkish Foreign Policy(*)
I would like to recall the famous dictum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk:” Peace at home,peace in the World” which continues to constitute the underlying principle of Turkish foreign policy.
I thank the Foreign Policy Institute for giving me the opportunity to address such a distinguished group. The Foreign Policy Institute has helped improve understanding of Turkish foreign policy by a wider public at home and abroad through its research, meetings, publications and analyses.
We are witnessing a unique time in history. The world is undergoing rapid change. Interdependence is growing but paradoxically so is uncertainty with respect to the future. The end of the Cold War marked by the collapse of the bipolar system generated high hopes for a better and safer world order. Soon thereafter however, it turned out that we faced a whole series of new and unprecedented challenges to peace and security. Non-conventional and asymmetric challenges, particularly terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, pose a serious threat to the international community. A sound collective effort is necessary to cope with these new security challenges.
It is in the light of these evolving parameters of the international system that Turkey can play an important role in addressing the challenges of the 21st century. At this point, I would like to recall the famous dictum of Mustafa Kemal Atatiirk: “Peace at home, Peace in the world” which continues to constitute the underlying principle of Turkish foreign policy.
In line with this objective, Turkey proactively pursues the goal of helping to create an environment of security, stability, prosperity, friendship and cooperation on a regional, as well as global scale.
Because of its geographical location, Turkey is at the center stage of a whole series of problems that currently preoccupy the international community. It is only natural that most of these issues also figure prominently on its foreign policy agenda. Turkey’s objective to attain durable peace and greater cooperation in its region and beyond finds expression in:
- Its desire to consolidate stability and guard the peace in the Balkans through its contribution to various peacekeeping and police missions in the region.
- Its endeavors to put out the fire of discord and in its place cultivate a climate of reconciliation in the Middle East.
- Its advocacy of reform and support for local initiatives to this end in the wider region.
- Its moderating role to bridge cultures through dialogue and initiatives such as the Alliance of Civilizations.
- Its commitment to the political process and efforts to assist in post-conflict rehabilitation and reconstruction such as in Iraq and Afghanistan.
- Its efforts to facilitate a diplomatic solution to the pressing question of Iran’s nuclear program.
- Its search for peaceful means of conflict resolution in the South Caucasus, most notably in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict on the basis of the restoration of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity.
- Its initiatives to enhance together with regional countries, security and prosperity in and around the Black Sea.
- Its support for the Central Asian countries in their quest for development and democratization.
- Its commitment to effective international cooperation in the fight against terrorism.
- Its willingness to enhance global energy supply security and diversification through the realization of ambitious projects, such as the recently inaugurated Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline.
Your discussions earlier this morning concentrated on EU enlargement and the global role of the Union. In this connection I would like to recall that accession to the European Union is a strategic priority of Turkish foreign policy. The opening of accession negotiations marked a new chapter in our relations with the Union. Turkey is dedicated to its agenda of reform and is prepared to undertake the commitments entailed in the accession process for the end goal of nothing less than a full membership. Our prospective membership in the EU will add dynamism to the Union and will demonstrate that it is not retreating into a fortress mentality.
As a member, Turkey would play a prominent role in the efforts of the EU to become a global actor through a robust Common Foreign and Security Policy particularly in the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Middle East. There is also a greater awareness of Turkey’s role as a facilitator for harmony among cultures, an asset that has gained increased significance in the post 9/11 world.
The political and economic competence of the Union as an actor projecting stability, prosperity as well as democratic and free market values to its wider periphery will be considerably supplemented with the bridges to other geographies and cultures that Turkey’s membership will entail. In addition, located at the confluence of increasingly important energy, transportation and communication networks connecting the continents of Europe and Asia, Turkey will facilitate the access of EU to new consumer markets.
While the important contribution that Turkey’s membership will bring to the EU is increasingly acknowledged, there is also certain skepticism within the European public opinion. This is often reflected in the difficulties that we face at every turning point in Turkey-EU relations. Particularly, when political issues that have no direct relevance to the technical nature of the accession process are brought before us, erosion occurs in the confidence of the Turkish public.
The Cyprus problem, which is an important issue for Turkish foreign policy is not a matter related to our accession negotiations. However, it is being used by some to impede this process.We believe that fairness and objectivity should be the guiding principles in the relations between Turkey and the EU. In this connection, it becomes all the more important that this process is not contaminated by the Cyprus issue.
Turkey sincerely desires a comprehensive settlement in Cyprus. To this end, Turkey supports a solution to the Cyprus problem under the auspices of the good-offices mission of the UN Secretary-General, based on the long-established UN parameters of bi-zonality, political equality and a new partnership state structure. Any effort to solve the Cyprus issue outside the UN process is doomed to failure.
Turkey is a country with a glorious past and a great potential for the future. It is a stable democracy that is successfully implementing stimulating reforms and a regional power whose relations with all neighboring regions serve to promote stability and prosperity. It is a reliable ally for the maintenance of security and a partner for the promotion of democratic values and economic development.
Turkey has entered the 21st century as a confident and stabilizing international actor, prepared to make a global contribution in close collaboration with its allies and partners for a more peaceful, prosperous and stable world.
(*) Luncheon speech delivered during the fpi organized Turkey-EU Seminar, “EU: Challenges and Prospects”, in November 2006
Published in the fpi Quarterly “Foreign Policy”, Vol. 31, Nos. 3-4