Turkish foreign policy and the New Middle East: alive and kicking

Published 26/5/2011 © bitterlemons-international.org

For some observers, the "Arab spring" burst the Turkish foreign policy bubble, exposing its true scope and lack of maturity. While Prime Minister Recip Tayyip Erdogan continued to captivate the Arab public across the region by publicly asking Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to resign, he seemed supportive of Syrian leader Bashar Assad and silent over serious human rights abuses unfolding in Syria and Bahrain.

On Libya, Erdogan went from categorically rejecting NATO involvement and condemning military action against his "Libyan brothers" to attempting to play a key role in the growing international tide against Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, seeking ties with rebels and signaling the need for Gaddafi to leave the country. This caused disillusionment in the streets of the Middle East as Turkey's behavior resembled that of a colonial power, using discourses of human rights and democracy whenever it suited its national interests.

Those ready to declare the end of Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu's energetic vision also pointed out that his catch phrase "zero conflict" had not achieved any results in the standoff between Armenia and Turkey nor brought the Cyprus problem any closer to resolution. Full European Union membership still looks far away. Israeli-Turkish relations are at a historic low and a return to the level of cooperation of the 1990s seems almost impossible. No one remembers Turkish efforts to settle disputes between Syria, Israel, Hamas and Fateh.