Academic journal article Arab Studies Quarterly

Continuity of Change in Turkish Foreign Policy under the Jdp Government: The Cases of Bilateral Relations with Israel and Syria

Academic journal article Arab Studies Quarterly

Continuity of Change in Turkish Foreign Policy under the Jdp Government: The Cases of Bilateral Relations with Israel and Syria

Article excerpt

Turkish foreign policy has been a popular topic for those who study recent developments in Turkish politics as well as those of the Middle East.1 These developments and new initiatives in the foreign policy realm, such as the refusal to allow coalition forces to deploy their troops from Turkish territory before the Second Gulf War, the fostering of ties with Middle Eastern countries, its participation and leadership in international organizations and initiatives, its pro-active diplomacy with neighboring countries, and its willingness to mediate and resolve disputes among the warring parties of the Middle East, have fascinated scholars of Turkish studies as well as foreign policy analysts. Most of these initiatives were innovative endeavors compared to more traditional Turkish foreign policy, whose important pillars include non-involvement and non-interference in regional conflicts, a cautious approach in its relations with neighboring countries, and foreign policy decision making with bureaucratic and military control. These changes that took place in the last ten years and the expansion of foreign policy endeavors of Turkish policy makers have paved the way for the emergence of new scholarship focusing on the JDP government, in particular its leadership, goals, ambitions and the impact of these factors on foreign policy formulation and implementation. Studies in this field have revealed different outcomes regarding the motivations of foreign policy makers, the causes of the change in foreign policy, and the process of change in the foreign policy realm.

The outcomes of most of these studies reveal that the JDP era has constituted an important rupture in Turkish foreign policy. Various different interpretations on the nature of this rupture have been provided.2 For some scholars JDP foreign policy represented a turning away from the Western world and rapprochement with the authoritarian countries of the Middle East. In this sense it was a major breaking point with its previously pro-Western orientation that it had followed since the foundation of the Turkish Republic. In addition, the turn was also suggested as being detrimental to the secular and democratic regime in Turkey.3 Some others described the JDP period as a reunion with the Ottoman past and as a form of neo-Ottomanism. According to the proponents of this viewpoint, although Turkey does not aim at imperial expansion, it was following a foreign policy to promote a high profile diplomatic, economic, and political role for Turkey in the Middle East to project a regional super power. This geostrategic vision was followed (at least for now) in former territories of the Ottoman Empire.4 Other scholars focused more on the strategies of the JDP foreign policy makers in the international arena and indicated that the recent changes were the signals of formation of a more independent foreign policy line in Turkey. This new line exhibits itself through the rise of multidimensional and multilateral foreign policy5 Moreover, the changes in the foreign policy making process and increasingly "active civilian control [in the] foreign policy decision making process" played a significant role in this transformation.6

Despite the differences in the opinions and interpretations of different observers and scholars, they agree on the idea that there has been a certain "break" in foreign policy making since the JDP took power in November 2002. However, in addition to the aforementioned foreign policy changes, one essential point that needs to be raised to complement some of these arguments is the presence of a kind of continuity in some aspects of foreign policy in Turkey. While reforming foreign policy and launching new initiatives, the JDP government also followed some of the changes that were initiated in previous periods. Thus the JDP era does not only represent a major break but also an important amount of continuity in terms of foreign policy. These areas of continuity need to be understood in order to figure out the trajectory of change in Turkey's foreign policy and to comprehend the real impact of the JDP and its leadership on foreign policy making. …

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