Turkey's Foreign Policy in Free-Fall; Problems with Four Neighbors

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), December 21, 2011 | Go to article overview

Turkey's Foreign Policy in Free-Fall; Problems with Four Neighbors


Byline: Ben Birnbaum, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Turkey's foreign policy vision is best captured by its foreign minister's motto: Zero problems with neighbors.

But with the predominantly Muslim country facing escalating crises with Syria, Iran, Iraq and Israel, Turkish opposition leaders say the rhetoric has not matched the reality.

The claim of the government was to pursue a policy of having 'zero problems with neighbors,' and now we are having all sorts of problems with all our neighbors, said Faik Oztrak, deputy chairman of Turkey's Republican People's Party (CHP).

In recent months, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government has:

* Taken a lead role in pressuring Syrian President Bashar Assad to resign, imposing sanctions on Syria and hosting refugees and opposition leaders.

* Agreed to host NATO missile defense radar installations intended to protect Europe from Iranian missiles. Iran, in response, has threatened to take out the Turkish sites if the U.S. or Israel attack its nuclear program.

* Launched airstrikes on Kurdish rebel safe havens in northern Iraq in retaliation for terrorist attacks carried out by the Kurdistan Workers' Party, inflaming Turkish border tensions with Iraq.

* Expelled the Israeli ambassador after the Jewish state refused to apologize for a 2010 raid on a Gaza-bound convoy that killed nine Turkish nationals.

The conflicts are a sharp departure from last year, when Turkey's relations with many of its neighbors were at a new high.

CHP elder statesman Faruk Logoglu, who served as Turkey's ambassador to the U.S. from 2001 to 2005, said his country's foreign policy has failed, adding that Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu cannot point to a single accomplishment.

Mr. Logoglu reserved particularly harsh criticism for the Erdogan administration's Syria policy. …

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