Eu/turkey : Istanbul Meeting to Seek Tighter Foreign Policy Coordination

Article excerpt

The EU and Turkey will hold strategic talks, on 13 July in Istanbul, with the aim of seeking better coordination of their approaches towards the Western Balkans, Iran and the Middle East, including in particular Israel following the country's recent raid on Gaza-bound boats that left nine Turkish citizens dead. EU and Turkish senior officials will also address the political dimension of the ongoing accession negotiations in order to speed up the process.

It will be the first EU-Turkey meeting in the framework of the bilateral political dialogue to be held after the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, in December 2009. Hence, the Union will be represented exclusively by EU officials, namely Catherine Ashton, the foreign policy chief, and Stefan Fule, the commissioner for enlargement. There will be no representative of the EU Presidency present at the meeting. They EU delegation will meet Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey's foreign minister, and Egemen Bagis, the country's minister for Europe and chief EU negotiator.

SHIFT

Over recent years, Turkey - led by the neo-Islamist government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan - has strengthened its international position by pursuing an independent foreign policy. Ankara no longer focuses on one region or one state, as was the case for a long time in relations with the US. Instead, it has been pursuing a more balanced and as a result more efficient policy, especially towards its Middle Eastern neighbours Iran, Iraq and Syria. In consequence, the differences with Israel and the US, once close allies over the Middle East policy, have been growing.

Turkey has threatened to break off diplomatic relations with Israel over its raid, on 31 May, on Gaza-bound boats that left nine Turkish citizens dead. In early June, Turkey, a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, joined Brazil in voting against tougher US and EU-backed sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme.

At the same time, Ankara has been stating that full membership of the EU remains its main strategic objective. The EU accession talks, however, have been stalled due to various political reasons in both the EU and Turkey. …