Turkey’s opposition to the prospect of Finland and Sweden joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) once again raises questions about the course of its foreign policy. The latter is frequently deciphered through simplistic assumptions that fail to account for its logic. Many criticisms are, in fact, leveled that do not stand up to analysis or the test of time. It is therefore necessary to deconstruct received ideas and put recent developments in Turkey’s foreign policy into perspective. We will retain only two recurring statements to illustrate the point.
First assertion: Turkey is isolated. If we can admit that the formula of “zero problems with its neighbours”, popularized in its time by Ahmet Davutoglu – Minister of Foreign Affairs then Prime Minister between 2009 and 2016 – could not be implemented, this does not mean, however, that its critics, claiming that the situation is rather that of “zero neighbors without problems”, are right.
Products of the multiple effects of the revolutionary processes in the Arab worlds, of the rise of the Kurdish fact in Syria but also of the authoritarian stiffening of power in Ankara, strong turbulence has, in fact, marked Turkey’s relationship with several countries. But the diplomatic sequence that now prevails appears quite different.
Take the recent example of the sequence for the month of March. The Israeli President was successively received in Turkey on March 9 and 10, the Azerbaijani President on the 10th, the Armenian Foreign Minister on the 12th, the Greek Prime Minister on the 13th, the German Chancellor on the 14th and the Dutch minister, on the 22nd. It will be remembered that several of the states mentioned had experienced severe turbulence in their relations with Ankara in previous years.
At the same time, from March 11 to 13, the Diplomatic Forum is held in Antalya (southern Turkey), during which a meeting is organized between the Russian, Ukrainian and Turkish foreign ministers, just two weeks after the start of the war in Ukraine. It is in this context that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is welcomed with great empathy at the NATO summit on March 24, being one of the only international leaders who continue to dialogue with the leaders of two countries at war.
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Finally, we can recall that the Turkish president is going to the United Arab Emirates on February 14 and 15, then to Saudi Arabia on April 28 and 29, bringing about spectacular reconciliations with two countries with which relations had deteriorated considerably. Or that he makes an official visit to three African countries in February, a continent on which the number of Turkish embassies has increased from twelve to forty-three in twenty years. These examples show quite well that if we can conceive of differences with Turkey on its choices in terms of foreign policy, there is no reason to claim that the country is isolated on the international scene.
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