Thursday, September 9, 2010

From Tehran to Jerusalem

In recent months, the two most glaring trouble spots for Turkish foreign policy have been relations with Israel and Iran. In the case of Israel, it's been the deterioration in relations that has caused trouble for Turkey, while in the case of Iran it's been the improvement in relations that has proved problematic (at least in terms of relations with western allies). The International Crisis Group has a new report out that takes a clear-eyed look at Ankara's relations with Israel and Iran and how the changes in those relations are fueling questions about in which direction Ankara is heading. Like other ICG reports, it also offers some very practical suggestions for everyone concerned about how to take things forward. From the report:
Damage to Turkey’s relations with Israel and suspicions in Western capitals about its relationship with Iran have dealt setbacks to Ankara’s “zero-problem” foreign policy. At the same time, there have been many misconceptions about Turkey’s new engagement in the Middle East, which aims to build regional peace and prosperity. From a Turkish perspective, Israel and Iran issues have separate dynamics and involve more collaboration and shared goals with Western partners than is usually acknowledged. Ankara’s share of the blame for the falling out with Western friends and Israel has been exaggerated, but there are problems in the government’s formulation and presentation of its foreign policy. These include short-sightedness, heated rhetoric, over-reach and distraction from Turkey’s core conflict-resolution challenges in its immediate neigh bourhood, including a Cyprus settlement, normalisation with Armenia, resolution of new Kurdish tensions and commitment to EU convergence....

....Turkey has changed greatly over the past two decades, becoming richer and more self-confident, no longer dependent on Washington or Brussels alone. While Ankara should not exaggerate its own importance or capacities, its Western partners should recognise its genuine significance in its region and beyond and spend more time talking to it quietly, constructively and at high-levels. To this end, Washington and Ankara in particular might usefully consider establishing new mechanisms for regular dialogue and better coordination on the full range of their shared foreign policy interests, including in the Middle East. Moreover, while Turkey remains committed to its EU path, France and Germany must keep its membership perspectives credible, if all are to take maximum advantage of their shared Middle East goals. These commonalities remain a strong basis for cooperating to increase stability and diminish conflicts in the region.
You can find a link to the full report here.

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