Revenge of Turkish foreign policy
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Revenge of Turkish foreign policy
Istanbul has always been a center of world politics, with important incidents in world history taking place in the city. Political steps, at times, changed the axis of the history in Istanbul, the former capital of the Ottomans who ruled the world for centuries. Istanbul recently hosted the Summit of Turkic Speaking Countries. A new Ottoman wind will blow in the near future once a council of cooperation for Turkic speaking countries is established. It was banned in the past to claim the Ottoman Empire’s heritage. We were considering if Turkey is not the successor of the empire, then who is? But, it is needless to have such thoughts today. With the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government we are in charge of a new Ottoman foreign policy. The central-right government is conducting the policy. Turkey today claims its near past through multi-dimensional foreign policy. Thinking or calculating a better alternative than being the successor of the Ottoman foreign policy in the 21st century is impossible. Experts were not wrong to term the new Turkish foreign policy “Neo-Ottoman policy.” With the dispersion of the Soviets in the 1990s, Turkey needed a new policy in foreign relations. This new policy concept should serve to increase the country’s geopolitical influence in Central Asia, the Caspian Region, and the southern Caucasus. In the last days of summer Istanbul hosted the Summit of Turkic Speaking Countries at the presidential-level. Formation of a Council of Cooperation among Turkic speaking nations has been decided and the President of Turkey Abdullah Gül announced that the office of secretary general will be located in Istanbul, with the institution working to strengthen relations among participants. And former Turkish Ambassador to Russia Halil Akıncı was announced to be the secretary general of the Summit of Turkic Speaking Countries. Before analyzing contributory impact of this organization over Turkey I want to have your attention to another document signed in the summit. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Azeri President İlham Aliyev struck a deal on Sept. 15 in Istanbul to set-up a strategic cooperation high council between the two countries as part of the 10th Summit of Turkic Speaking Countries. A competition cycle started among the world powers to claim the South Caucasus following the Soviet collapse is, therefore, ended in favor of Turkey after 20 years. This is a victory of orchestrating a rational foreign policy. The Russian hegemony has ended in the South Caucasus. Turkey has regained its power to affect on the region after the Ottomans fall and opened the door to the Caspian Sea. At the same time, Turkey as Azerbaijan’s strategic partner has had a say in the critical Upper Karabakh conflict, which is the number one problem of the region. Let’s keep in mind that such strategic partnership is also beneficial for Azerbaijan, too. Azeris are now assured that Ankara will support official stance of Baku in the border conflict between Turkey and Armenia. On the other hand, such cooperation with the potential of expanding military issues will in the near future show us its merits. With this agreement, Turkey has reclaimed 80 percent of its influence over the South Caucasus. And that is being confirmed by the former Armenian President and today’s opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian’s interesting statement which the current administration couldn’t have the courage to utter. According to Ter-Petrosian, a new reality has emerged in the region. That is a critical process to solve the Karabakh problem with the help of Russia-Azerbaijan-Turkey trio. The Minsk Group of the OSCE will remain in presence to ease Western reaction. I think, Ter-Petrosian wanted to confess the fact that Turkey becomes influential again in the region. With the new documents signed for the formation of a Cooperation Council among Turkic speaking countries, Turkey is, at the same time, starts a new initiative towards the Central Asian countries. Participants of the summit Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan are also big guns of Central Asia. Therefore, if we shed a light on relations of the Central Asian countries with Russia and China in the near past, we will understand better the importance of recent developments. A gap had occurred in the Central Asia with the Soviet dispersion in the 1990s. Super powers of the world (China, Russia and the United States) wanted to benefit it and looked for competition. On the other hand, Iran was trying to increase its own influence in the region. In the 1990s Russia established the Commonwealth of Independent States, or CIS, in order to regain control, but was not satisfied, so signed a Collective Security Agreement to increase its military impact as well. Central Asian countries are also important for China. Since the Middle East is critical for the U.S. plans, China wanted to decrease American influence and increase of its own. Therefore, China signed energy agreements with these countries and undertook the construction of oil and natural gas pipelines. In order to remove more of the Western control, China sided with Russia and established the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in July of 2001. They aimed to get closer with Central Asian states and strengthen economic ties. Apparently, the organization is considered as a strong alternative against the U.S. neoconservative policy back then. For this reason, as neoconservatives stepped down in the U.S. the Shanghai Organization brought activities into low gear. In this case, Turkey reclaims power in the ever changing world as the Ottoman wind blows in Central Asia again. From now on Turkey will have to develop a strategy within the Asian diplomatic basin although it is in deeper relations with Europe if continental and global balances are considered. Unless such an obligation is transformed into a long-term perspective, it is difficult to come up with a strategy and put it into practice in Central Asia, a center for activities of big powers playing key roles in balances in Asia. Central Asia is a key to Turkey’s creation of an in-depth Asian strategy. Balanced and long-term relations to be established between a large scale Eurasian strategy and Middle East foreign policy will become infrastructure for Turkey to have global impacts. Development of relations between new Muslim Turkic states in Central Asia and Turkey makes the formation of a new geopolitical landscape important. National, cultural and religious similarities among Turkey, Azerbaijan and the Central Asian countries bring strong historic bonds to the fore. Turkey has already left Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan behind in terms of both economic development and of democracy. Russia and China, as being leaders of the Shanghai Organization and the CIS, suffered in democratic elections and had human rights issues. If a country playing for leadership of an organization is having difficulties in the issued of human rights and democracy, it is questioned whether or not to have democratic values. The powerful controls others. So, a country as the pioneer of such organization will not comply with the demands of its less developed allies. In these organizations, the leading country acts like a totalitarian towards its allies. The formation of the Organization of Turkic Speaking Countries and its future perspective will strengthen Turkey’s role in the region and, in a way, will turn the country into a super power in Central Asia and the Caucasus and Caspian regions. Though such a perspective is expected in the near future, it will mostly come at Turkey’s discretion. Orhan Gafarlı is the Azerbaijan representative of the Caucasus Strategic Research Center, or Kafkassam.
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