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This issue of the Turkish Foreign Policy Institute journal was in the process of preparation when many challenges in the international scene and more so in the region increased as well as ambiguities remained. Furthermore, forthcoming Presidential elections in the US keep on hold many important decisions needed for an alliance in which Turkey is a staunch member struggling with many threats from the South and East.
Future of EU
The future of EU-UK relations after the referendum in the UK resulting in favour of UK leaving the Union is a complex process the results of which will have ramifications not only for countries already members but also for those like Turkey seeking membership. The result will also be indicative on how far the members are prepared to compromise on their sovereign rights for a presumably value based but uncertain future, how far they are prepared to realize the European project of working together for peace and prosperity where many cultures, traditions, languages in Europe are a possible asset for the continuation of a “unified in diversity” Europe.
The Turkish Prime Minister Prof. Davutoğlu had concluded an agreement with EU in March 2016 on curbing the flow of illegal immigrants and regularizing Syrian refugees aiming to reach Europe and on receiving financial assistance to meet part of the burden on Turkey of the close to 3 million refugees Turkey had been hosting. This was regarded as a positive development in Turkey’s relations with EU. The conclusion of this agreement facilitated the opening to negotiations on June 30, 2016 of a new Chapter, Chapter 33 on financial and budgetary provisions and re-energizing the accession process in line with the outcome of the EU-Turkey Leaders’ meeting on November 29, 2015 and EU-Turkey Statement of March 18, 2016.
Change of Government in Turkey
Meanwhile, in Turkey we had a change of Government after Prof. Ahmet Davutoğlu resigned in May 2016 and Mr. Binali Yıldırım replaced him as AKP (Justice and Development Party) leader and was assigned as the Prime Minister. However, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu remained in his office in the new government. Since the Party in power remains the same, it was more of a change of leadership. However, change of government has provided the opportunity to revise the Turkish foreign policy practices and to accommodate it to the realities of its region. As the new Prime Minister emphasizes his government will make every effort to reduce the number of enemies and increase the number of friends, it is expected that the foreign policy pursued will be based on realpolitik and Turkish interests, rather than on an ideological factors.
Amelioration of Turkish-Israeli Relations
Signs of change in approach to problem issues in foreign policy were imminent. An agreement was reached with Israel to normalize diplomatic relations strained since a Turkish ship “Mavi Marmara” carrying humanitarian assistance heading to the Israeli blockaded Gaza Strip was raided by Israeli navy commandos in international waters killing 9 Turkish citizens in 2010. The memorandum of understanding signed on June 28, 2016 by the Undersecretary of the Foreign Ministry of Turkey, Ambassador Feridun Sinirlioğlu and Israeli Prime Minister’s Special Representative Joseph Ciechanover did not only aim at reviving bilateral relations but also emphasizing the importance of cooperation on regional political, economic and humanitarian crisis and fight against terrorism.
Overcoming Tension in Turkish-Russian Relations
Coinciding more or less with this development was the normalization of relations with Russia which had been strained after the downing of a Russian bomber by a Turkish Air Force fighter jet near the Turkish-Syrian border on November 24, 2015 whose nationality was unknown at the time of the violation of Turkish air space several times despite several warnings. Since the military engagement rules on that frontier had been changed and very strictly implemented after a Turkish plane was shot down by the Syrian Air Force earlier in 2012. The downing of the Russian plane was hoped not to negatively affect its bilateral relations. However, Russia immediately imposed economic sanctions restricting imports from Turkey, making difficulties for Turkish business active in Russia and prohibiting tour operators organizing touristic visits to Turkey.
While the Turkish Foreign Minister right after the incident had expressed regrets to the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs when they briefly met on the sidelines of an OSCE meeting in Belgrade, this was not deemed satisfactory at that time. However, 6 months later, when Turkey had suffered enough economically, a letter sent by the Turkish President Erdoğan to his Russian counterpart President Putin expressing regret and sorrow over the downing of the Russian war plane created the conditions for the resumption of cooperation and bringing end to tension.
Russia had immediately imposed sanctions, in particular restrictions on touristic visits to Turkey, on Turkish business active in Russia and on importation of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as some products from Turkey. Russia must have realized that the strain in relations was disadvantageous for both countries and preferred opening of a new page in relations which Turkey was prepared to respond. Earlier, after the Second World War, when relations with the Soviets had soured, it had taken much longer to return to the initial warm days in their relations.
Warsaw Summit of NATO
NATO held a Summit meeting in Warsaw, Poland on July 8-9, 2016. The focus was still on Russia as the threat on Eastern members of the Alliance. Russian illegal annexation of Crimea and aggressive policies it pursued over the Ukraine have prioritized the Alliance to shift its strategy from small mobile reinforcements as decided at the Wales Summit in 2014 to more autonomous formal presence and deployment of four battalion sized battle groups that can operate in concert with national forces in the Baltic States and Poland in order to meet Russian military capabilities. While augmentation of Turkey’s air defense capabilities was considered and it was decided to make available AWACS surveillance aircrafts to monitor also the Turkish skies to support the counter ISIL Coalition, many people in Turkey argued that the Alliance was a bit shy to sufficiently consider the many threats Turkey was facing and fighting 3 different types of terrorist organizations, ethnic, sectarian and ideologically oriented.
Two Important International Meetings
While the attention was focused more on these issues two important international meetings were held in Turkey. One was First World Humanitarian Summit held in Istanbul on May 23-24, 2016. The other was the high level mid-term review of Istanbul Program of Action for the Least Developed Countries held in Antalya on May 27-29, 2016.
Contents of This Issue
In this issue of our journal we have articles on these two important international meetings. The one on the First World Humanitarian Summit is written by Ambassador Hasan Ulusoy, Director General for Multilateral Political Affairs at the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs entitled “Embarking on a Historic Journey for the Future of Humanity”. The other one is by Ambassador Emre Yunt, Director General for Multilateral Economic Affairs at the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs entitled “UN Least Developed Countries Mid-Term Review”. We have also included in our “Documents” section Chairs’s summary of the First World Humanitarian Summit “Standing up for Humanity: Committing to Action”. As well as the Political Declaration submitted by the President of the mid-term review.
We have an essay by Seyfi Taşhan, President of the Foreign Policy Institute on factors impacting Turkish foreign policy. He discusses how these factors, international conditions and conjuncture, as well as major power policies influence the formation and execution of Turkey’s foreign policy.
An article by Ambassador (Ret.) Numan Hazar entitled “From Clash of Civilizations to Dialogue among Nations and Cultures”. At a time when we witness tensions not only between different cultures but also within cultures, you will find it interesting to read how Ambassador Hazar foresees amelioration of relations through dialogue.
At a time when private security companies are widely utilized there has not been sufficient debate on what kind of national and international legal infrastructure is needed. In the article “Privatization of Security and Its Impact on National and International Security” Prof. Hüseyin Bağcı from the Middle East Technical University and PhD Candidate Mr. Murat Kaymakçılar focus on this important subject.
Followers of our journal know well that we have been interested in Turkey’s opening to Africa and many articles have appeared in our previous issues on this subject. This time the Turkish Ambassador to Moputo, Mozambique, Ms. Aylin Taşhan has contributed an article on Turkey’s emergence as a global actor in Africa with a special focus on its relations with Mozambique. This will provide an insight on how Turkey perceives its relations and what it has achieved so far.