Turkey’s foreign policy has tested several new initiatives and approaches in recent years to advance its interests in all major regions. Some have succeeded, some have failed, some have never taken off, and some have even failed.
Since the Syrian crisis, analysts have criticized Turkey’s zero-problem policy with its neighbors (started earlier in the 2000s) and the goal of achieving strategic depth. As the Syrian civil war rages, Turkey, like most of its neighbors, is plunged into a deep crisis, including the rise of Daesh, the PKK and Al-Qaeda, which threaten the continuity of the state system in the Middle -East. Turkey had little help to offer these states to pull them out of the crisis. Turkey needed to protect its own borders first before it could stop civil unrest in neighboring states. Several violent non-state actors – Daesh, the PKK and Al-Qaeda – controlled a vast swath of territory in Syria, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere. Turkey has failed to mobilize the necessary international support, including its NATO military allies, to protect its security interests. Turkey and its Western allies even openly disagreed on how to control the spread of the PKK, Daesh and Al-Qaeda and stop the mass displacement of people and their migration to Turkey and European borders. In 2015, when Turkey shot down a Russian plane for violating its airspace, the lukewarm response from NATO members forced Turkey to seek extraordinary diplomatic contact with Russia and build trust to avoid a recurrence. similar incidents. The 2017 Qatar crisis in the Persian Gulf imposed another strategic puzzle on Turkey, in which Turkey had to choose either Qatar or the blocking quartet. Differences over the Libyan conflict, the Eastern Mediterranean, the 2020 Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict and the Cyprus issue continued.
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If the two editions of the Antalya Diplomatic Forum (ADF), the Turkish Foreign Ministry’s flagship event, are any indication, Turkish officials have been working quietly to find a new approach to breaking the impasse. Although Turkiye has already hosted several other high-level diplomatic exchange events, the Antalya Diplomatic Forum brings together both scholars and stakeholders, and provides a forum for finding solutions through direct dialogue. Turkish Foreign Ministry staff carefully designed the Forum to bring together leaders with whom Turkey needs to build trust. A few weeks before Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s visit to Ankara, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited the United Arab Emirates, a country most critical of Turkish regional policy. A few days before the official launch of the ADF, President Herzog visited Ankara, pointing out the big changes in the region. The day before the Forum, the foreign ministers of Russia and Ukraine met in Antalya to iron out their differences in order to reach a lasting ceasefire. The Diplomatic Forum in Antalya was followed by two important European visits, by the Greek Prime Minister and the German Chancellor. Events and speeches at the Antalya Diplomatic Forum reflected these changes. Turkish Jewish representatives who played an important role in the Turkish-Israeli rapprochement strolled happily and exchanged thoughts. The President of the Alliance of Rabbis of the Islamic World, Mendy Chitrik, a native Turkish national, explained to me the good impact of improved Turkish-Israeli relations on the Jewish population of Turkiye. The Taliban’s acting foreign minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi, and other Afghan officials were present. Muttaqi not only addressed his first-ever diplomatic event, but also held direct dialogues with several Western diplomats, including from the United States.
It seems that the Turkish Foreign Ministry has chosen the forum to send specific messages to the world about a new approach to the country’s diplomacy. Their theme of “recoding diplomacy” could be easily decoded into three points: First, as President Erdogan’s inaugural speech emphasized, the world order must be more inclusive. He did not rule out Turkiye’s ambitions to be a permanent member of the UN Security Council. Second, Turkey wants to give up political differences and focus on economic and security cooperation with all countries. While the Israeli-Turkish rapprochement aims to make the Eastern Mediterranean a region of energy security for all, the Greek-Turkish rapprochement has opened a new chapter to overcome their differences in the Eastern Mediterranean and Cyprus. Third, the Russian invasion of Ukraine is seen as Europe’s most serious security challenge, and Turkey and Greece are on the same page to prevent Ukraine from falling under Russian control. .
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The Forum was created in 2021, a year before the Russian invasion. The basic idea of the Antalya Diplomatic Forum was to reset Turkey’s foreign relations discourse, from one that is too politically focused to offer new perspectives on global challenges. Therefore, it was not surprising that the 2021 and 2022 Forum did not include issues on which Turkey could have serious disagreements with any country, including political issues and conflicts in the Middle East, from Asia, the Eastern Mediterranean or the West. Rather, it included much more universal issues like food security, environmental issues, sustainable development, energy security, economic diplomacy, artificial intelligence, livelihoods, the coronavirus pandemic, and global health. The forum seems to be designed to create a new agenda for Turkey, to create a “Global Turkiye” similar to the “Global Britain” policy. The Forum of the last two editions has devoted a lot of time to little-discussed geographies such as Latin America, Asia-Pacific and Africa. Even though the first Forum in 2021 was held in the context of the war between Azerbaijan and Armenia, the Forum had however sought “new opportunities for regional peace and cooperation” jointly with Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. A year later, the Armenian Foreign Minister himself attended the 2022 Forum to declare the normalization of relations and the opening of borders. For the Middle East, the Forum sought “common ground” in which the foreign ministers of Bahrain, Palestine, Algeria and Kuwait spoke out for a new regional policy after the Qatar-Saudi rapprochement. Arabia and Turkey-Gulf. The Forum also rearticulated Turkiye’s European rhetoric, asking Europe for “clarity of mind”.
At a time when Turkey’s foreign policy had been harshly criticized for being ‘neo-Ottoman’, ‘conservative’ and ‘pan-Islamist’, the Antalya Diplomatic Forum offers a different picture of what precisely Turkish foreign policy is. , at least official diplomacy, intends to do. The Antalya Diplomatic Forum presented a different Turkey that is ambitious but seeks a respectable place in world politics with the help of more conciliatory measures. With this new diplomatic approach which it dubbed the “Antalya initiative”, Turkey wants to speed up compromises with all its regional rivals in the Middle East, Asia and Europe. In recent years, Turkey’s Asia Anew initiative and its African policy have brought it new diplomatic and commercial opportunities, expanding Turkey’s defense, trade and cultural reach.
The Forum 2022 agenda included a historic visit by the Armenian Foreign Minister to formalize the ongoing normalization process. Barely returned, the Armenian Minister of Foreign Affairs announced that his country was ready for diplomatic relations and the opening of borders. The resumption of relations between Turkey and Armenia should be considered one of the most important achievements of Turkey’s foreign diplomacy in the era of troubled foreign relations. In addition, the presence of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh and his speech during a session on the Asia Anew initiative was in itself a great change, as Turkey and Bangladesh managed to restore their ties in less than four years. With this progress, Turkey is expected to prepare for the next big steps, for a fresh start with great powers like India and China. However, Turkey has yet to use its excellent trade relations with India and China for greater political, cultural and strategic cooperation. India and Turkey are at odds on various issues, but they have made progress in trade and security cooperation. With its Antalya Diplomacy Forum, Turkey could soon bridge the long distance between Turkey and the world and project itself as a facilitator of a peaceful, inclusive and multilateral world order.
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