Turkey is making efforts in diplomacy. After years of all-out abrasive foreign policy, Ankara has changed its tune to reconcile with Westerners and its neighbors. Turkey is even the only mediator admitted by kyiv and Moscow in the current war.
From pariah to partner. Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey is returning to favor with its neighbors and Western countries, while it was struggling a few years ago to find allies for it, the Turkish president multiplying provocations and subjects of tension since the Arab spring.
A reorientation illustrated by a significant diplomatic success: Ankara is the only country to have succeeded in establishing itself as a mediator between kyiv and Moscow in what turns out to be the worst crisis between Russia and the West since 1962.
It is in Istanbul that negotiations between the two countries have been taking place for a month with a view to a peace agreement. Turkey can boast of the confidence of both parties, supplying drones to kyiv but being the only NATO member not to have imposed economic sanctions on Moscow, with whom it has found a modus vivendi since the two countries came close to military confrontation in Syria in 2015. “The two regimes were able to categorize their differences, in Syria, in Libya, to also pursue a joint policy”, explains Sinan Ulgen, director of the Center for Economic and Political Studies in Istanbul .
Improved consideration of Turkey ‘s diplomacy
“Turkish foreign policy was clearly recalibrated from the end of 2020 on the basis of two observations,” he adds. The policy pursued since the Arab Spring had failed, because it had resulted in the isolation of Turkey in the Middle East, as with its Western partners. And the Turkish economic weakness imposed a reversal vis-à-vis the Western countries “, which happen to be the main customers and suppliers of goods, or capital of Ankara. The Turkish economy is proving to be resilient, but it structurally needs investment and has seen its currency collapse, with inflation reaching 61% over one year.
Result, a successful all-out standardization effort. The quarrel with Saudi Arabia after the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi is on the way to being forgotten, even if justice will not necessarily find its account there. Relations with Israel have improved, as illustrated by the visit last month of its president, Isaac Herzog, the first in fourteen years. And the exchanges are once again cordial with the United Arab Emirates. Even the resumption of a dialogue with the Syrian enemy no longer seems taboo.
On the other hand, the patching up will be slower with Egypt, with whom relations have been terrible since the Arab Spring. “Turkey is also pushing its pawns on the black continent, where it has just opened its 43rd embassy, with a wide range of actions, cultural and security, or construction sites”, underlines Dorothée Schmid, Turkey specialist at the French Institute of International Relations.
Normalization is on the table with Armenia, as illustrated by the discussions that began last January. In addition to the undoubtedly insoluble dispute over Ankara’s recognition of the 1916 Armenian genocide, the two countries were at loggerheads over Nagorno-Karabakh, a region of Azerbaijan populated mainly by Armenians and controlled by Yerevan since the dissolution of the USSR. In solidarity with Baku, Turkey closed the land border with Armenia in 1994.
After the military reconquest of the majority of Nagorno-Karabakh by the Azerbaijani army in the fall of 2020, the Armenian Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinian, had to resolve to launch peace talks during a meeting with the President of Azerbaijan. , Ilham Aliev, a week ago in Brussels. This removes the obstacle to a parallel normalization of relations between Ankara and Yerevan. As a result, Armenia lifted an embargo on Turkish products, and commercial flights between Istanbul and Yerevan, interrupted for two years, have resumed.
Diplomacy in Turkey is improving.
Perhaps more importantly for the Europeans, tension is also falling with Greece, as the fleets of the two countries came close to clashing in the summer of 2020 in the eastern Mediterranean over questions of sovereignty over various islets. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis met with the Turkish President in Istanbul last month. The war in Ukraine convinced the two leaders that “the most important thing is to focus on what unites us and less on what divides us”.
However, ties with the EU are likely to remain delicate for a long time because of the Syrian migrant file and, above all, the fact that Ankara is seeing the opening of an accelerated accession process in favor of Ukraine, when its own candidacy is stalled for 15 years…
Finally, Ankara’s relations with the United States, which were tarnished in particular by the Turkish president’s decision to buy a Russian S-400 anti-missile system, are improving. The Biden administration is ready to deliver F16 fighters to him and appreciated Ankara’s offers of good offices in Afghanistan after the pitiful US withdrawal last summer.
In Turkey, Erdogan is making efforts at the level of diplomacy. Do not be naive, nuance Dorothée Schmid, this strategy of appeasement is at the service of a Turkish policy which has claimed, for twenty years, a certain “centrality in relation to the West and the Middle East, a policy of power which can afford to play mediators and peacemakers by assuming its responsibilities better than in the past, in a less adventurous way, but by betting on an impressive economic, military and diplomatic redeployment”. Two examples: Turkish drones with formidable efficiency in Ukraine and the Turkish diplomatic network, the sixth in the world by the number of embassies.