Turkish foreign policy during the Justice and Development Party era went through several stages of change, mostly coinciding with and influenced by local and regional developments. Yet recent years have shown that it feels like it has become an everyday politics closer to reactions than a static politics based on a clear vision. It is true that the liquidity of the situation in the region – and more recently in the world – plays a major role, but it is neither the only reason nor the logical explanatory framework.
In 2016, for many reasons, challenges and crises at home and abroad, Ankara launched the slogan “more friends and less opponents”, but it remained a slogan that did not materialize. , especially since other regional parties did not interact with him as Turkiye had expected and wanted.
In fact, the following years brought a deeper polarization between Turkey and a number of regional parties, particularly some Gulf Arab states, against the backdrop of the crisis of the siege of Qatar and the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as well as as the crisis in the Eastern Mediterranean and the developments in Libya, Iraq, etc.
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Since the beginning of 2020, there has been talk of normalizing relations and easing differences, but this time not only by Turkey, but by various parties, and for very many reasons. The two most important reasons are, first, the desire of the United States to reduce the intensity of the dispute between its allies in the region and to rely more on them to resolve regional issues and, second, the economic crisis which touched everyone on the sidelines. from the previous global economic crisis, then the repercussions of the Covid pandemic and, more recently, the Russian-Ukrainian war.
Consequently, Ankara has taken clear steps and, perhaps, even leaps towards several countries and parties in the region that have been seen over the past decade as regional rivals and opponents, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Israel, as well as Armenia and Greece. .
However, what distinguished this path of rapprochement with the aforementioned parties was that it showed that Turkey was most in need of appeasement, dialogue and rapprochement and the most eager to do so. This translated, in form, style and discourse, at the very least, into a sense of urgency in not very encouraging conditions, as was the case with his steps towards Israel, clearly confronted with a problem of government instability and would most likely lead to new elections (which could change the entire ruling coalition), which eventually happened.
On the other hand, it seemed that Ankara was the only one paying the price for this rapprochement or most of it, which happened in the case of Egypt with the opposition media operating on Turkish soil, as well as in the case of Saudi Arabia, with the Khashoggi dossier. I emphasize that this was the situation, or the impression generated by many and, perhaps, the other parties made a point of emphasizing it, despite the fact that the course of calm and rapprochement is preceded by desire, will and of the efforts of the different parties, and for common and similar reasons as mentioned above.
Although it is still early to assess the results of the path that is still followed, it can be said that Turkey has obtained relief from external pressures on it, and the tone of the regional parties towards it seems less severe and harsh than Previously, especially since the path came in light of the Russian-Ukrainian crisis, which turned into a war that revalued the roles played by Ankara and increased its importance in the eyes of the West, in general, and the United States in particular. This is in addition to its urgent need in emerging regional and international post-war security systems.
On the economic front, which is the most important in Turkiye’s opinion, according to the narrative promoted locally, it seems that the output is still far below expectations. It is true that it has seen positive developments, such as Saudi Arabia lifting the travel ban on Turkey, in addition to promises of Emirati investment, but it seems that the return is much less than what which was anticipated or expected.
This shows that the Turkish predictions about the benefits of the path and its economic returns were not accurate, that the main motive was political and not economic, to begin with, that things did not go as Ankara wanted and the had planned, or all of the above.
Originally, the expectation of a rapid increase in trade with the mentioned parties was not logical, nor was the gas agreement with Israel, as expected. Even the increase in investments, which is the best tool for Ankara as it meets the needs of its economy, was not to be provided by the mentioned Gulf countries quickly and/or without a political price. It is understood that the path of normalization and calm is based on the temporary avoidance of controversial issues and not on their resolution, besides the fact that the countries concerned have not changed their visions and strategies in the region.
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Therefore, it was not expected that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, for example, would inject hard currency into the Turkish economy, which would certainly be a supporting factor for Erdogan before the elections, until ‘now, at the time of writing, these counties have not come forward with strong indications or evidence that his views on his foreign policy have changed or that they have reached an agreement with him that would include their support through investments.
In conclusion, while it is still too early to judge the path to peace in the region, particularly between Turkey and a number of regional parties, the assessments that accompanied it at its inception have overestimated the return of that the latter, especially on the economic level. We say this as we realize that the whole path is not certain to continue in the long term, because it is subject to several developments, including the American position and the regional axis to be formed vis-a-vis Iran, etc. . This calls for caution in assessment, forecasting and foresight, in light of the state of regional liquidity that drives foreign policies closer to them daily, once again.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Arabi21 on July 18, 2022
The opinions expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.