Silk Road Studies Program
Department of Eurasian Studies
In cooperation with
the Swedish Defence College
"New Trends in Turkish Foreign Policy"
February 8, 2007
Prof. Mensur Akgun
Director, Foreign Policy Program
Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation
Thursday, February 8, 2007
Sverigesalen, Swedish National Defence College,
Drottning Kristinas väg 37, Stockholm.
Event Summary by Per Häggström
Professor Akgün started out by pointing to the fact that the issues facing Turkey at present are in many aspects the very same historical issues that have been at the heart of Turkish foreign policy for a long time, sometimes predating the foundation of the Republic. Instead, Prof. Akgün spoke of the importance of focusing on the way the handling of these issues have changed over time. According to Prof. Akgün, there is at present an observable change in the overall orientation of Turkish foreign policy:
“The traditional obsession with geographic importance has begun to erode and geopolitics is no longer the only asset in the hands of Turkish decision-makers in their dealings with the European Union and the United States.
Prof. Akgün spoke further on the changes related to the EU-accession talks by emphasizing the changes in the way problematic issues are handled:
“Use of force and the threat of use of force are no longer seen as legitimate instruments in resolving problems. Turkey is increasingly resorting to legal remedies and encouraging peaceful settlements of disputes. Turkey has ceased to be a consumer of security and is becoming a provider of security.”
The evidence of this shift in Turkish foreign policy can be found in a number of recent developments such as:
- The Turkish military is taking an active part in peace-keeping operations ranging from Somalia to Afghanistan, Kosovo to Lebanon.
- Turkey contributes to democracy development within the G8’s Democracy Assistance framework to the Broader Middle East and North Africe (BMENA) region.
- Turkey has an important stabilizing role as a bridge builder between the west and the Islamic world within the Islamic Conference organization as well as the United Nations.
The current AKP governments desire to facilitate the settlement of the Palestinian problem.
Turkey actively seeks to encourage the establishment of a cooperative security structure in the Middle East.
- Prof. Akgün went on by speaking about his main research area concerned with the Cyprus problem:
“In a nutshell it is basically a problem created due to a clash of Hellenic nationalism with Turkish nationalism on a small island. But only in a nutshell, the reality is much more complicated than this analogy.”
He went on by giving a brief account of the historical background of the conflict before focusing on the current situation in Cyprus. He described it as the current Cypriot administration claiming to be the legitimate government of the Republic of Cyprus, and being internationally recognized as such, notwithstanding the constitutional requirement that it should be bi-communal; nor the fact that it does not have control over about one third of the territory of the island. Cyprus has been admitted into the European Union, under the representation of this government. Furthermore, the EU’s policy of admitting Cyprus into the Union even in the absence of a settlement has undermined the only motivation on the part of the Greek Cypriots to resolve the problem. The Greek Cypriots, enjoying the benefits of EU membership, still do not display any interest in the search for a viable and just solution.
Prof. Akgün continued by addressing the fact that almost three years after the latest UN attempt to find a comprehensive solution to the problem, the Greek Cypriots have not yet presented their amendment proposals to the UN-sponsored Annan Plan in “clarity and finality” as former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan requested. The UN plan was put to a popular vote separately in the two Cypriot communities on 24 April 2005, and was rejected by a large majority, 75.8%, of Greek Cypriots while it was approved by a clear majority, 64.9%, of Turkish Cypriots. According to Prof. Akgün, this should mainly be attributed to the fact that the Greek Cypriot President, Tassos Papadopulos, had fiercely opposed the Plan:
In a televised speech on 7 April 2004, for instance, he had declared: ‘I was given an internationally recognized state. I am not going to give back “a Community” without a say internationally and in search of a guardian’. Mr. Papadopulos had called upon Greek Cypriots to reject the Annan Plan in order ‘to defend their dignity, their history and what is right.’ He urged his community ‘to defend the Republic of Cyprus, saying NO to its abolition.’ And he asked his people to ‘rally together for a new and more hopeful course for the reunification of their country through the European Union’.”
Prof. Akgün observed that the Greek Cypriot rejection of the UN plan led the fomrer Secretary General Annan to describe the implications as:
“What was rejected was the solution itself rather than a mere blueprint. Benefits for the Greek Cypriots which have been sought for decades, including the reunification of Cyprus, the return of a large swathe of territory, the return of most displaced persons to their homes, the withdrawal of all troops not permitted by international treaties, the halting of further Turkish immigration and the return to Turkey of a number of ‘settlers’ have been foregone. The result is the maintenance of the status quo, a status quo deemed unacceptable by the Security Council.”
Prof. Akgün then went on to talk on how the rejection of the UN plan had effected Turkish-EU relations. The present AKP government, which has managed to bring about a dramatic shift in Turkey’s Cyprus policy to support a settlement that would reunify the island, is still being blamed by the opposition for selling out Cyprus for the sake of an ‘unrealizable dream’, namely that of Turkey becoming an EU member. Any complication in Turkey’s relations with the EU, which might result from the continuing impasse in Cyprus, may have spillover effects in Turkish politics, not least in relation to its policy towards Cyprus.
Prof. Akgün emphasized the importance of a solution of the Cyprus issue to Turkey’s quest for full EU-membership. Turkey still believes, and as matter of fact insists, that a solution can be found to the problem. Turkey’s six-point action plan declared in late January 2006 shows its continued willingness to find a settlement on the basis of UN parameters. “We owe this policy change on Cyprus to Turkey’s accession process. If the Cyprus issue was not instrumentalized by some EU member states to slow down Turkey’s accession, if pressure could be put on the Greek Cypriots for lifting the isolation on the Turkish Cypriots, we wouldn’t be discussing the ports and airports issue today.”
Prof. Akgün rounded of by rhetorically asking the audience to what extent Turkey should continue its ambitions toward a settlement of the Cyprus issue: “Should Turkey withdraw troops from the island in order to give Papadopulos a chance to claim that his policies are vindicated? Should Turkey recognize the Greek Cypriot claim of sovereignty over the entire island contrary to the stipulations of Republic of Cyprus constitution that power must be shared with the Turkish Cypriots?”
Prof. Akgün ended his presentation by concluding that the positive changes in Turkish foreign policy needed to be met by equally positive and wholehearted changes from certain European Union member states: “Despite all odds, many things can still be done. Both Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots need encouragement and fair treatment. But can we claim that Turkey is fairly treated? Aren’t there a number of special provisions for Turkey in the Negotiating Framework? The answers to these and several other related questions are unfortunately clear. Turkey has never been fairly treated by the EU. But despite the unfairness, there is still progress in the way Turkey handling its problems.”
Prof. Dr. Mensur Akgün is Director of the Foreign Policy Program of the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV), an independent think-tank, which forms a bridge between academic research and the policy-making process. After graduating from Middle East Technical University (B.Sc. in Politics), Dr. Akgun studied at the University of Oslo. He obtained his second bachelors degree (Cand.Mag.) from the Department of Social Anthropology. Dr. Akgün received his graduate degree (Cand.Polit.) from the same university in politics and completed his Ph.D. in International Relations at Bosphorus University. He has worked at Marmara University and Kültür University and has contributed to dailies Yeni Yüzyil, Yeni Binyil, Finansal Forum as columnist. He has written extensively on issues concerning Turkish foreign policy.
For registration and queries concerning the Turkey Forum lecture series please contact Per Häggström, Coordinator for the Turkey initiative and the lecture series: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com +46-(0)18-471-16-30 / +46-(0)733-50-24-29.