The accession to power of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), a moderate Islamist organisation, provided the domestic impulse to redefine the country’s approach to the Middle East. Under the AKP, Turkey is rediscovering its eastern identity, combining it with moderate Islamist ideology into what is known as a neo-Ottoman outlook. This seeks to anchor Turkey as a pivotal Asian actor whose economic wellbeing depends on a stable environment: something it does not have yet. So a confident Turkey is going about shaping that environment with an ambitious “zero problems, zero enemy” policy, the brainchild of the foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu.
This strategic reorientation has been obvious in the intense diplomatic activity of recent weeks. The most striking achievement is the establishment of diplomatic ties with Armenia, a country in dire need of regional integration, and the re-opening of the Armenian-Turkish border after 16 years. Conveniently, an “impartial scientific examination” will determine how to define the killing of more than a million Armenians during and just after the First World War. This arrangement may be scuttled by the rage of many in both countries, but a longstanding taboo has vanished.
Then there was the first meeting of the Turkey-Syria High Level Strategic Cooperation Council in Aleppo, crowning a decade-long rapprochement between the two countries. Of course, this would not have been possible without Turkish bullying and Syrian capitulation. In 1998 the Turkish army threatened to “enter Syria by one side and exit by another” unless Syria ended its support for the PKK. The Syrian president, Hafez al Assad, caved in and expelled the PKK leader, Abdullah Ocalan, from Damascus. Syria also had to accept the loss of the province of Hatay, also known as Alexandretta. [continued…]