After a short period of Covid-19 related interruption, the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies in Doha has resumed its weekly seminar, remotely, and broadcast on social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube).
In the first seminar using this new format, on 15 April 2020, ACRPS researcher and director of the editorial department, Emad Kaddoura, presented his lecture "Where is Turkish foreign policy heading?"
Dr. Kaddoura started his presentation by highlighting the main strategic goal of Turkish foreign policy from the beginning of the nineties until today, to reorient regionally and internationally, in a way that serves the perception of Turkish centralization and the restoration of an active role. He explained that it is difficult to understand the current policy, which is somewhat aggressive and combines diplomatic efforts and military intervention, and to understand President Erdogan's desire to achieve "independence", without first looking back at the first attempt to break the traditional isolation policy and initiate an active regional strategic role by president Turgut Özal. He sought to exploit the opportunity presented at the end of the Cold War to open up to circles of Turkish influence, such as Central Asia, the Black Sea basin, the Balkans, and the Middle East. However, the death of Özal and the political and economic instability that ensued resulted in Turkey's failure to implement an effective policy for a decade. With the Justice and Development Party's accession to power, Erdogan managed to restore Turkey's central position, in its "strategic depth", and was able to launch an active foreign policy based on multiple directions and good relations regionally and internationally. This policy was met with success and failures.
Kaddoura then focused on the 2015-2020 period, which witnessed the unification of many local variables in strengthening the trend that aspires to increase strategic relations with the East, especially with Russia, and to adopt an interventionist approach abroad. The coalition that bought together various intellectual and political spectrums, the most important of which has Islamic roots, and which held together during the first decade of the current century in the framework of the emerging Justice and Development Party, has been subjected to major shocks after the conflict with the Fethullah Gülen group, then the exit of conservative personalities like the former president Abdullah Gül, Beşir Atalay, Ali Babacan, then Ahmed Davudoğlu.
Despite the disparity between the external attitudes of these people, there is an ongoing attempt to balance eurocentrism in foreign policy, which the Gülen coalition was pushing towards. Several events led to their expulsion, the most important of which was the failed coup attempt in July 2016. Instead, according to Kaddoura, Erdogan sought to consolidate his position in the AKP and the state, as well as ally with other influential Turkish nationalist forces, such as the National Movement and Vatan Parties. Nationalist powers share the perception that the West seeks to dominate and weaken Turkey and prevent it from independent decision making or playing an active role in its environment, and that the its alliances must focus on the countries of the East such as Russia and China and even Iran, following the "Eurasian" trend.
The transformation that took place in 2017, when the new Turkish presidential system granted the President of the Republic a full executive and sovereign role in internal and external affairs, is of particular importance, because Turkish foreign policy has become, according to the researcher, under this system, the responsibility of the president which increased Erdogan's use of "personal diplomacy." Kaddoura concluded the lecture by examining the future directions of Turkish foreign policy, which is likely to continue to try to achieve the goal of "independence" and strengthening Turkey's relations with the east, while preserving relations with the West. But many factors may stand in the way, including limited capacity to be a major power in the region, and its continued need to ally with international and regional powers to implement its policies.
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