Turkey’s “zero problems” foreign policy

In a presentation of Turkey’s “zero-problems” foreign policy, Turkey’s foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, lays out five operational principles guide Turkey’s foreign policy-making process:

The first principle is the balance between security and democracy. The legitimacy of any political regime comes from its ability to provide security and freedom together to its citizens; this security should not be at the expense of freedoms and human rights in the country. Since 2002, Turkey has attempted to promote civil liberties without undermining security. This is an ambitious yet worthy aim — particularly in the post-Sept. 11 environment, under the threat of terrorism, in which the general tendency has been to restrict liberties for the sake of security.

Turkey has made great strides in protecting civil liberties despite serious domestic political challenges to such freedoms over the past seven years. This required vigorously carrying out the struggle against terrorism without narrowing the sphere of civil liberties — a challenge Turkey successfully overcame. In the process, we’ve found that Turkish soft power has only increased as our democracy has matured.

Second, the principle of zero problems towards neighbors has been successfully implemented for the past seven years. Turkey’s relations with its neighbors now follow a more cooperative track. There is a developing economic interdependence between Turkey and its neighboring countries. In 2009, for example, we achieved considerable diplomatic progress with Armenia, which nevertheless remains the most problematic relationship in Turkey’s neighborhood policy.

Turkey’s considerable achievements in its regional relationships have led policymakers to take this principle a step further and aim for maximum cooperation with our neighbors. Since the second half of 2009, Turkey established high-level strategic council meetings with Iraq, Syria, Greece and Russia. These are joint cabinet meetings where bilateral political, economic, and security issues are discussed in detail. There are also preparations to establish similar mechanisms with Bulgaria, Azerbaijan and Ukraine as well as other neighboring countries. Turkey abolished visa requirements with, among others, Syria, Tajikistan, Albania, Lebanon, Jordan, Libya and Russia. Turkey’s trade with its neighbors and nearby regions has substantially increased in recent years.

The third operative principle is proactive and pre-emptive peace diplomacy, which aims to take measures before crises emerge and escalate to a critical level. Turkey’s regional policy is based on security for all, high-level political dialogue, economic integration and interdependence, and multicultural coexistence. Consider Turkey’s mediation between Israel and Syria, a role that was not assigned to Turkey by any outside actor. Other examples of pre-emptive diplomacy include Turkey’s efforts to achieve Sunni-Shiite reconciliation in Iraq, reconciliation efforts in Lebanon and Palestine, the Serbia-Bosnia reconciliation in the Balkans, dialogue between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the reconstruction of Darfur and Somalia.

The fourth principle is adherence to a multi-dimensional foreign policy. Turkey’s relations with other global actors aim to be complementary, not in competition. Such a policy views Turkey’s strategic relationship with the United States through the two countries’ bilateral strategic ties and through NATO. It considers its EU membership process, its good neighborhood policy with Russia, and its synchronization policy in Eurasia as integral parts of a consistent policy that serves to complement each other. This means that good relations with Russia are not an alternative to relations with the EU. Nor is the model partnership with the United States a rival partnership against Russia.

The fifth principle in this framework is rhythmic diplomacy, which aspires to provide Turkey with a more active role in international relations. This principle implies active involvement in all international organizations and on all issues of global and international importance. Turkey became a non-permanent member of the U.N. Security Council and is chairing three critical commissions concerning Afghanistan, North Korea, and the fight against terror. Turkey undertook the chairmanship-in-office of the South-East European Cooperation Process, a forum for dialogue among Balkan states and their immediate neighbors, for 2009 and 2010. Turkey is also a member of G-20, maintains observer status in the African Union, has a strategic dialogue mechanism with the Gulf Cooperation Council, and actively participates in the Arab League. Turkey has also launched new diplomatic initiatives by opening 15 new embassies in Africa and two in Latin America, and is a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol. These developments show a new perspective of Turkey, one that is based on vision, soft power, a universal language, and implementation of consistent foreign policies in different parts of the world.

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