By December 4, 2013 Read More →
Iran Deal: Turkey’s “zero problems with neighbours” Foreign Policy Comes Under Increasing Strain

Iran Deal: Turkey’s “zero problems with neighbours” Foreign Policy Comes Under Increasing Strain

Much has been said about how the recent nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 will affect geopolitics in the Middle East; and in particular how key US allies – Saudi Arabia and Israel – have demonstrated their unease with prospects for any rapprochement between Iran and the West. But where does Turkey, a key regional player, stand in all this? According to Alexander Kouttab, writing for ECFR’s MENA blog,

This agreement also has significant implications for Turkey, a regional power in its own right, one that maintains relatively close relations with Iran. In particular, Turkey faces some tough decisions over the future direction of its foreign policy in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) following the Arab uprisings. Last month’s agreement will only add to Turkey’s foreign policy woes.

Turkey is well known for its “zero problems with neighbours” approach to regional foreign policy. Since the onset of the Arab Uprisings this approach has come under increasing strain, as Kouttab goes on to discuss in the same article:

Costly miscalculations in both Syria and Egypt have brought home the limits of Turkey’s foreign policy and its ability to manipulate regional dynamics. In Syria, the AKP’s support for the Syrian National Council and the Free Syria Army against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime has largely come undone amid increasing divisions within the Syrian opposition, as well as America’s refusal to intervene in Syria (strengthening Turkish-Syrian relations was another key pillar of Turkey’s zero policy with neighbours policy). In Egypt, Ankara’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood government and criticism of Egypt’s current military government have seen relations between the two countries reach rock bottom.

In both cases, Ankara finds itself increasingly marginalised and its oft-repeated claim that it possesses unique insight into the region given its rich cultural and historical ties ringing increasingly hollow. More than backing the losing side, Ankara’s decision to take sides per se has caused the most damage. Its decidedly partisan (sectarian?) approach to the Arab uprisings has shattered Turkey’s pretence of being a neutral mediator of regional tensions or an influential regional player enjoying zero problems with its neighbours (the obvious exception being Israel), both of which have laid the foundations of its foreign policy architecture in MENA and have been central to its foreign policy arsenal.

Continue reading Iran Deal: Is Ankara a Loser?

(Wikimedia Commons image courtesy of Dersaadet)

About the Author:

William Oliver is Nabateans’ editor for international economics and Middle East current affairs. He obtained his degree in History from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. While his studies focused on the Middle East in the 18th and 19th centuries, William has a long-standing interest in international finance and the political economy of development. William’s work is aimed at understanding how the Middle East integrates with the global economy, and into the wider geopolitical landscape.

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