Syria and Turkey Relations: The Changing Face of Turkish Foreign policy/Suriye Ve Turkiye Iliskileri: Turk Dis Politikasinin Degisen Yuzu

Article excerpt

Introduction

Turkey has become one of the countries which determine the bulletin about the Middle East because of two reasons: the traditional Middle East policy which was inherited from the Ottoman State and the consequence of the reformation in the region by the international dynamics. Especially the secular and democratic structure of the Turkish Republic has been the main factor determining its policy in this region. Turkey's history in the region and its influence has still been continuing and as a result, it has become an indispensable country in the Middle East. This situation has made Turkey to be ready for an unexpected formation in the region and to determine a thorough foreign policy for the region.

First of all, Turkey strategically occupies a very important geography which connects Asia and Europe. Turkey is economically the twenty-first biggest country in the world. Moreover, it is an important actor in Europe with regard to its economy and population. Turkey, as a secular country with overwhelming Muslim population, is governed by participating democracy, thus it is a permanent factor for the stability of the region. The unchangeable truth is that Turkey has been applying and following a Pro-Westerner Policy since the foundation of the Republic, and has been trying to be a member of the economic, political and security foundations of the West, alongside being a Middle Eastern country. Although Turkey has continuously followed a pro-westerner policy trying to avoid itself from the unstable geography, it has not been able to prevent itself from the continuous influence of the events in the region which have an important place in the international system and the world politics. On the other hand, one of the most important Middle Eastern countries from Turkey's perspective will remain Syria, where problems of water, political ambition, religion, boundaries, and the PKK are factors.

1. The Fundamentals of Turkish Foreign Policy

The basic elements of the Turkish state identity were mainly constructed in the early Republican era, when the founding fathers of the Republic applied a reform project to create a "civilized and modern" nation (Aras ve Koni, 2002: 47-58). This emerging new identity--later called the Kemalist identitywas the product of a pragmatic-eclectic ideology that took shape on an international level in the 1920s and 1930s. It was inspired by Comtean positivism adopted by certain Ottoman intellectuals at the end of the l9th century, as well as the process of westernization initiated during the same period. This project was basically a modernization project dependent upon the three pillars of nationalism, westernization and secularism. In this vein, the foundational elements of the Kemalist identity were the abandonment of the Ottoman past, the termination of Islamic power in the public sphere -preventing it from functioning as a source of political legitimacy- an understanding of citizenship that excludes non-Muslim minorities, all within an ethnolinguistic and territorial conception of state. While clamoring for increased modernization and Westernization so as to elevate Turkey to the economic level of the civilized world, official identity, at the same time, has been the source of distrust and a latent enmity towards the West inherited from the Ottoman administrative elite. Any careful analyst will recognize that official identity has been shaped not by limited westernization but through praxis of a third world nationalism deeply influenced from the 19th century nation-state model of Europe (Aras ve Koni, 2002: 47-58).

Although the official identity was projected as a civic one, the burden of the Ottoman imperial past and Kurdish rebellions in early periods of the republic led to a shift to ethnic nationalism exclusively based on Turkishness (Aras ve Koni, 2002: 47-58). The early steps of the Kemalist long march toward westernization were in conformity with creating an ethnic and homogenous national identity at home. …