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Nowadays, people live in the era where rapid changes, fast decisions, and unknown technologies can influence how people live, think, and develop their relationships. If one person is not always ready to understand his or her possibilities and outcomes of his or her decisions, it is hard to guess if a whole country is ready to take similar steps and achieve the required portion of success. Current technological, cultural, economic, and political changes predetermine a number of foreign policy issues and make them more complicated and unpredictable.
Each country has its own peculiarities and demonstrates various approaches to prove its economic independence, international appropriateness, religious and cultural harmony, and human rights recognition. In this paper, Turkey’s foreign policy will be analyzed because it is one of those policies that has undergone considerable shifts during the last years because of its political and religious preferences.
During the last centuries, Turkey was successful indeed in developing strong and effective international relations with its neighbors and many other countries around the world. Though the history of the relations between Turkey and the countries of the Gulf region is not too long, it influences the development of the foreign policies of both countries and their trade affairs.
It is important to comprehend the nature of the future of the Turkish foreign policy and how the relations between the Gulf region and Turkey could be developed. Do the countries have a great potential to stabilize their cooperation? Or, could it be a complete failure in the foreign policies of both countries? Anyway, this type of relations has to be discussed due to the current international and domestic shifts, globalization, and personal attitudes.
In fact, Turkey and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) relations have undergone considerable changes in the 21st century and have opened a number of opportunities for both regions; still, the current challenges in the spheres of logistics, politics, and economy create certain limitations for Turkey and prove that both parties have to continue working in different directions. To answer these questions and prove the chosen argument, the paper will be divided into several logical parts to evaluate the current foreign policy of Turkey, to describe the peculiarities of the GCC, to investigate the relations between Turkey and the GCC, and to illustrate the strong and weak aspects of these relations.
Evaluation of Turkey’s Foreign Policy
The past decade was the period when Turkey was able to introduce itself as a regional power with a number of duties, obligations, and opportunities. In 2008, Turkey was one of the first countries that agreed to develop a new mechanism in the development of relations with the representatives of the GCC and strengthen it with the help of regular meetings at the ministerial levels (Dirioz, 2013).
In fact, until that moment, Turkey had already proved itself as a powerful international body and developed a number of strong and effective relations with the countries of the European Union and other countries that are not the members of the Union because of its geographical location or some other reasons, such as Ukraine, Russian Federation, and the United States. There are many ways that people can follow to investigate the foreign policy of Turkey.
Martin (2004) offers to consider three main perspectives in order to comprehend the present Turkish foreign policy and clarify the possible future alternatives: historical and philosophical points explain the development and nature of its foreign policy, geographic and strategic issues help to examine the challenges, and domestic policies can show the way of how Turkey can cope with the challenges using its opportunities and sources. Therefore, it is suggested to consider some of these points to explain if the relations between the GCC and Turkey impact the countries in only a positive or negative way or create some limitations in addition to plenty of benefits for these countries and their neighbors.
Turkey is a country located geographically in one of the most crucial areas. On one hand, the process of globalization and the possibility to establish numerous international relations help the country to underline and promote the importance of human rights, international trade, and even sustainable environment globally. On the other hand, the inabilities to gain control over all innovations and religious whims of different societies, Turkey is under such threats as global and cultural terrorism, illegal immigration, weapon proliferation, and organized crime that can lead to mass destruction and global problems (Igen & Perkovich, 2015).
Therefore, the geography and history of the country play a very important role in the development and promotion of foreign policy dynamics among different countries. Turkey is afraid to lose its territory because it provides the country with a kind of “geographical determinism” and “unique security needs and interests” (Terzi, 2016, p. 61). For a long period of time, Turkey introduced itself as the country with a foreign policy that could be used to promote peace, security, and prosperity.
The majority of the countries were pleased to develop international trade, political, and economic relations with Turkey. However, the current foreign policy has faced a certain shift after such events as the Arab Spring and destroyed all positive attitudes to the country that was eager to have zero problems with neighbors (Vatandas, 2016). In several months, taking several unexplainable steps, Turkey demonstrated the way of how plenty of good prospects could be shifted and changed the nature of its foreign policy.
Turkish abilities to develop successful relations with a number of countries were impressive indeed. After the 1960s, Turkey was eager to join the European Union and open a number of trade opportunities. However, the conflict between Cyprus and Turkey that occurred between the 1970s and 1980s was the main reason for why the member of the EU rejected Turkey. Still, the EU underlined the possibility of the country joining the future and signed an agreement under which Turkey could import and export goods using favorable conditions and taxes. Turkey also benefited from the tourism issues that were developed with the Russian Federation, Ukraine, and Italy. Its closest neighbor, Syria, was ready to develop “extremely positive bilateral relations” with Turkey (Vatandas, 2016, para. 2).
Turkey and Egypt’s relations were also very strong and connected through their histories. If the Russian Federation was planning to develop gas deals with Turkey, Egypt established them a long time ago and gained a number of benefits from this contract. In fact, the end of the Cold War showed that Turkey was able to use its unique geographical position in order to introduce its new security context and the perceptions of a new safe foreign policy. The Cold War was over, the United States and the Soviet Union established their own rules and divided their impact on the territories in respect to other countries.
A certain attention should be paid to the importance of the USA for Turkey. In fact, the relations between Americans and Turkey began in the 19th century. The countries identified themselves as friends and provided each other with support from time to time. In the Korean War, the Turkish people supported the Americans with their military power. The Gulf War was also an opportunity for Turkey to strengthen the relations between the USA and Turkey.
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As the war was ended, Turkey established rather good relations with Iraq in order to make sure that no restarting of the conflict is possible, especially when the attention of the USA is paid to some other political and social challenges. Still, the USA does not want to end relations with Turkey, and the only possible reason that could be observed is the fact that Turkey remains as a powerful still not too strong buffer zone, a corridor between the Eastern and Western countries.
However, the USA is not the only country that has an impact on Turkey. A certain attention should be paid to the Islamist impact on Turkey’s international relations that could be observed through the ages. The relations between Islam and Turkish foreign policy were observed in the early 1900s when several Turkish groups tried to promote revolutions and crushed the existed authorities. However, all Islamist groups were illegal.
In the middle of the 1900s, the legalization of such groups took place, and the impact of Islamists was observed in the sphere of politics. The establishment of the National Order Party (NOP) was a significant event that provided the Islamists with certain powers in the country. Religious discussions and controversies were hard to control. Still, after the events of 9/11, the situation was changed.
The power of the Justice and Development Party, also known as AKP in Turkey, was spread and led to a number of changes in its foreign policy. Clear Islamist sympathies were hard to ignore, and the changes were observed not only in its foreign relations. It was necessary for Islamist supporters to create some standards according to which they could establish and proclaim their needs and aspirations. Several educational and cultural movements took place in order to make sure that Turkey was ready to a certain type of westernization. High academic standards were set. Scholarships and additional academic help could be offered for certain groups of people only.
In other words, the division of people on the basis of their religious ideas was observed, and the government could gain little to control it. In a short period of time, Turkey turned into a country where the Islamist movement was used as a serious opposition to the government that was able to demonstrate its political dissatisfaction with the rules and orders set at the moment.
Relations Developed by the GCC
Turkey became one of the first countries that understands the importance of developing relations with the Middle East (Dirioz, 2013). The peculiarities and origins of the GCC are attractive indeed. This region has been a respected organization in the region and in the whole world. The relations between the GCC and the EU were beneficial because many European countries identified the GCC states as those that are ready to balance their reliance on US security with their bilateral security agreements (Nonneman, 2006).
As a young organization, the GCC still has some military issues to be resolved. Still, many countries try to neglect this fact or just to underline that its benefits and opportunities prevail. For example, Turkey, as well as other countries, understands that the Gulf region is one of the richest areas in terms of oil and natural gas (Dirioz, 2013). It is also recognizable due to its economic profits and trade relations. Finally, the GCC is the organization that could solve the conflicts in the most peaceful way, as it happened to Qatar and Bahrain, and the necessity to divide the islands under Bahrain’s jurisdiction (Dirioz, 2013).
The GCC is also successful in the development of its business, political, and economic relationships with different countries. Being very concerned about USA intentions to sign nuclear agreements with Iran, the representatives of Saudi Arabia do not want to demonstrate their evident discontent (Titov, 2015).
Despite the differences between the countries and the fact that their relations can hardly be defined as friendly, Saudi Arabia introduced definite and clear suggestions and shared its concerns. Saudi Arabia has an autocratic monarchy with Islamist ideas being spread everywhere, and the USA is the multi-ethnic democratic country where the idea of human rights is appreciated the most (Titov, 2015). It appears that the countries could hardly co-exist. Still, the abilities to develop such professional and tolerant relations are impressive.
The same tolerance could be observed in the relations of the GCC with Turkey. Their relations has undergone considerable changes during the last several years, and the events called the Arab Spring served as one of the main reasons for the changes. The beginning of these relations could be dated back to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the foundation of the Republic of Turkey (Oxford Gulf & Arabian Peninsula Studies Forum, 2015).
For a long period of time, Turkey did not want to demonstrate its preferences and tried to take a neutral position in the conflicts that took place between the Arabs and Israel. However, in the 1970s, Turkey was involved in the Cyprus crisis that served as a good reason to start thinking about the development of foreign relations with the countries of the Middle East. A number of misunderstandings and concerns were observed in the relations between the GCC and Turkey between the 1970s and 1990s. In the end, the required trade balance was achieved by the end of the 1980s.
The Gulf War did not positively influence the foreign policy of the country because Turkey had to control its relations with Israel and protect the territory. The Arab uprisings in 2010 marked a new stage in GCC-Turkey relations and promoted the possibility to develop its political, economic, and trade relations.
Turkey and the GCC against the Whole World
Nowadays, it is hard to say if it is the impact of the USA or the Islamist movements, but Turkey is in a doubtful position with a number of shifts that could be observed in its foreign policy. It appears that Turkey is ready to disregard all European values and neglect the interests of the West, taking rather provocative steps. On one hand, the majority of Turkish allies cannot accept the fact that the country is ready to change its foreign policy and establish new rules without any discussions.
On the other hand, the results of the shifts in Turkey’s foreign policy lead to the possibility of improving the relations between Turkey and the GCC and strengthen the countries due to their current economic growth, mutual interests, religious beliefs, and the intentions to stabilize its neighborhoods (Talbot, 2013).
First, the political developments cannot be ignored in the relationships between Turkey and the GCC. One of the main political achievements was the GCC proclamation of a Memorandum of Understanding with Turkey with the help of the establishment of clear political, economic, defense, security, and cultural issues occurred (Baskan, 2011). The countries agreed to establish annual meetings on a ministerial level to discuss the current problems, opportunities, and further activities. Such new prospect of political cooperation was effective because the countries felt themselves protected and open to new opportunities.
The partnership that could be developed in the economic terms played an important role for the GCC and Turkey as well. The development of economic relations and growth are crucial for the countries: on one hand, the GCC countries are one of the most powerful and certainly the most prosperous countries in the Middle East; and, on the other hand, Turkey had a strong economy in the region (Dirioz, 2013).
Certain economic ties were established during the AKP era in the early 2000s (Elik, 2014). This rationale was developed with time. Nowadays, the countries try to re-identify their economic relations because they want to expand their import and export markets and choose the trading strategies most appropriate for them.
One of the goals that has to be achieved in this type of relationship is the identification of trade issues and the possibility to prove that the majority of changes have a positive nature. The results are impressive. The cooperation between the GCC and Turkey is productive, and the recent changes are as follows: in 2002, the trade volume was about $2.1 billion, and in 2012, it was $18 billion (Elik, 2014). In fact, trade issues underwent considerable changes in a short period. The countries comprehend that the development of trade relations is more important than the stabilization of the military-political strategies. The countries have to understand the worth of every free trade agreement signed and use the shifts in the foreign policy.
In general, the importance of political, economic, and cultural developments cannot be neglected by the representatives of the GCC and Turkey. The cooperation between these countries has deepened with time. Though many mass media sources describe this cooperation as something unreasonable and even unethical, the countries comprehend that if they gain benefits from their relations, they should not consider the opinions of other countries.
Turkey has been waiting for the acceptance to the EU for a long period of time. Still, no positive results were achieved. Though the GCC cannot be identified as the same powerful alternative to the EU, Turkey should use its chance and cooperate with the organization that is favorable to the country. Without any doubt, Turkey’s current foreign policy shifts may have several strong reasons and benefits. Still, there are also plenty of shortages and misunderstandings that cannot be neglected.
The relations between Turkey and the GCC may have a rather unpredictable future. However, the development of these relations is in the interests of both countries. The political, economic, and trade aspects have to be improved and strengthened in order to create an alliance that could amaze the world and promote certain changes in the existing system of global relations.
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