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Research Report

The ‘Arab Spring’ and the Rise of the 2.0 Version of Turkey’s ‘zero problems with neighbors’ Policy

Tarık Oğuzlu
Copyright Date: Feb. 1, 2012
Pages: 22
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Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. 3-3)
    Tarık Oğuzlu

    Turkey’s ‘zero problems with neighbors’ policy (hereafter ‘zpwn’) has recently come under strong challenges in the context of the developments associated with the ‘Arab Spring.’ Many commentators have rushed to the conclusion that this policy will be difficult to pursue, as Turkey’s relations with Syria, Iran and Israel have all soured somewhat during this period. The questions of how Turkey’s foreign policy understanding will be affected by the tumultuous changes in the region, and how Turkey should cope with these changes require urgent answers.

    This policy brief seeks to answer these questions by putting forward the argument that besides bringing...

  2. (pp. 3-4)

    When the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) came to power in late 2002, Turkey was in the midst of economic and political crises. Neither a prospering economy nor a significant level of liberal-democracy at home convinced Turkey’s western partners that Turkey should be accepted as part of the West. At the same time, the US-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq transformed the Middle East into an ever more chaotic and instable region. Turkey was exposed to emerging security challenges in the wake of the regime change in Iraq, most notably the rising possibility of an independent Kurdish state, the...

  3. (pp. 5-6)

    Like many other regional and non-regional actors, Turkey was caught off guard when the revolts first began in Tunisia and then spread to Egypt and other countries. Turkey’s reactions to the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt on the one hand, and Libya and Syria on the other appear to be different from each other. Turkish policy makers considered this situation as an opportunity to adopt a ‘pro-democracy’ approach toward these countries. Turkey’s new policy line was a delicate one considering the fact that Ankara had been developing closer economic and political relations for some time with those countries, where sizeable...

  4. (pp. 7-10)

    Turkey’s approach to the crisis in Syria has gradually become more ‘liberal, assertive, normative and humanitarian.’ First, the most imminent cause of this transformation appears to have been the continuing influx of Syrian people into Turkey and the kind of tragedy this has engendered. Accepting numerous Syrians has been a risky move on Turkey’s part, given Assad’s view of those refugees as insurgents, though their numbers are liited to date. Another risk would arise if Syria’s Kurds, who live alongside the border with Turkey, were to follow suit and thus put additional pressure on Turkey’s own Kurdish problem.6

    Second, the...

  5. (pp. 11-14)

    Even though the emergence of the Arab Spring seems to have facilitated the adoption of the 2.0. version of the ‘zpwn’ policy, this does not mean this foreign policy stance will be exempt from challenges and risks. The first challenge to mention in this context is that Turkish statesmen might increasingly find it difficult to strike an appropriate balance between the Realpolitik foreign policy mentality that favors developing strategic and economic cooperation with regimes irrespective of their internal characteristics and the moral politics foreign policy vision that sees Turkey’s role in the region as the beacon and promoter of liberal...