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Bend it like Turkey

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While the majority of Greek media still exhaustively examine the financial crisis and its side-political frictions, a country at the eastern side of the Mediterranean Sea claims a decisive role in the international political scene.

While Turkish diplomacy seems to be at its best, the Greek is still stuck somewhere between political indecisiveness, partisan’s lack of information/interest and failure to connect theory with practice through the National Diplomatic Academy.

Turkey is and has been a key strategic ally to the United States of America (USA).

Being a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), Turkey made its presence quite perceptible in this year's General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) in New York. In total, the presence of the Turkish delegation and in particular the content of Turkish President’s, Abdullah Gül, speech unfolded the message of not only a rising power but a mighty regional force. Gül rejected a meeting with his Israeli counterpart Simon Peres and instead, chose to meet with the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, clearly reflecting a prioritization of his country’s relationships within the Middle East region at the moment. Turkey’s diplomatic ties with Israel initially threatened to break over Israel’s raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in May 2010. While Israel’s action was internationally condemned the Israeli side clarified that “we have no intention to apologize”. Last but not least, Iran invited Turkey to cooperate in its ambitious space program, although there was no official answer from the Turkish side.

The “extraversion doctrine”, put into force by Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ahmet Davutoğlu, has been fully applied in Turkish foreign policy; the active and multidimensional diplomacy demonstrates an upgraded international player with an active role not only regionally, but globally as well.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, expressed the political will of his government to further develop Turkey's relations with the Arab countries. Turkey turns to the East, expanding political and economic cooperation through visa liberalization and the signing of a free trade agreement with Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. Last year, Davutoğlu attended a round of talks between Turkey and the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in Kuwait, where they reached an agreement in boosting security and anti-terrorism cooperation, as well as cooperation in the area of the defense industry. While the EU leaders and powerful nations throughout the globe adopted tougher sanctions against Iran, targeting its energy sector in an effort to curb its political will towards the continuation of its “nuclear ambitions”, Turkey, together with Brazil (being both non-permanent members of the UNSC), have offered to mediate in order to find a resolution. In fact, an agreement was signed among Turkey, Iran and Brazil on 17 May 2010 over Iran’s treatment of its enriched uranium. Turkey is promoting regional financial collaboration via investments of Turkish companies in the Caucasus area. After signing the Şahdeniz Natural Gas agreement with Azerbaijan, the Turkish minister of Energy, Taner Gilntiz, and the Russian Vice-president of the government, Igor Setsin signed an agreement on nuclear energy exchange of information and know-how issues on nuclear energy, collaboration on protection from the radioactivity, confrontation of emergencies, education and training of human potential. Turkey also seeks to reinforce and foster its status and relation with the Balkans and the Muslim populations of the region. According to EUBusiness, “economic exchanges between Turkey and Bosnia totaled some 126 million euros (161 million dollars) in the first seven months of the year, mainly in favor of the Turkish economy. In Albania, a private hospital management group, The Universal Hospitals Group of Turkey, opened its first hospital abroad in the Albanian capital of Tirana on January of this year. "Turkish investments in Albania currently rise up to 1 billion USD. Nearly 80 Turkish companies operate in Albania", said Turkish State Minister, Selma Aliye Kavaf, who participated in the Turkish-Albanian business council meeting in Tirana at the time. During his visit to Turkey, Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic, discussed with Davutoğlu the interest of Turkish companies in building a highway connecting the capital of Belgrade with Sandzak. “This is a strategically big investment that will make Serbia Turkey’s most important partner in the western Balkans,” he said. Since long time ago, on 2008, Macedonian and Turkish Foreign Ministers, Antonio Milososki and Ali Babacan, signed a strategy plan for boosting bilateral relations, setting up a solid base for new action plans for cooperation in the spheres of security, defense, customs administration, economy, trade, education and culture. Apart from that, “Turkey has offered unconditional military aid to the Republic of Macedonia since 1991. The total aid and donations of military equipment amounts to 15.8 million USD”. Turkish and Chinese military forces carried out common practice operations, making Turkey the first NATO country performing such undertaking with China. Apart from this, the two countries have more in common; Turkish economy, together with the Chinese, is the leading one regarding development rhythm for the year 2010.

Egemen Bağış, the Chief negotiator of Turkey in the EU, proposed an investigation and co-exploitation of the natural sources of the Aegean Sea. The Aegean case is intermingled with the Greek-Turkish relations and the long-lasting suspension of the shelf demarcation, which constitutes a necessary condition for the undertaking of such initiatives in the region. Since the 90’s Turkey has frozen the Greek activities in the area based on the “grey zones” and the systematic use of movements evaluated as “provocative” by the Greek side, such as investigations with specialized boats in the Aegean Sea.

Recently, a referendum gave the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) the green light to change the military-era constitution and bring it more into line with EU norms. This year, amendments were initiated as part of the government’s action plan in an effort to fight corruption. However, its goes without saying that infrastructure, business and education are some of the domains which have amazingly advanced in due time. Of course there is still a lot to be done at the inner country in terms of political freedom, human rights and social inequalities but talking in diplomatic terms Turkey should be proud of its diplomats and what they have achieved, considering the country’s situation twenty years ago.

Some might claim that it is too early to judge, as Turkish economy might still encounter some difficulties. However, Ankara managed to overcome the global financial crisis without any attempt of “banks-saving”. This year, Prime Minister Erdogan interrupted the lending program from International Monetary Fund (IMF), explaining that the country can henceforth achieve without exterior help its lending needs.

As a Greek journalist correctly noted "contemporary Turkey resembles quite a lot wealthy Greece of 2004, the only difference is that Turkey managed its euphoria with more graveness and resolved some obvious concerns that did not allow them to move forward"

A first-class lesson for the Greek leadership in times of disgrace.

With information from Kathimerini, Today’s Zaman, BBC and Associated Press