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PostInterdependence: Key to Peace, Stability and Mutual Welfare (Yusuf Kanli, Turkey, 04/18/12 8:05 am)
I'd like to share with WAISers this essay, which I will be delivering today at the Ankara Conference on Peacebuilding and Conflict Resolution hosted by the Berlin-based Institute for Cultural Diplomacy (ICD). Greetings to all.
Interdependence: The key to peace, stability and mutual welfare
It was with late Turgut Özal, the former prime minister and president of Turkey, that Turks learned of the word "interdependence." For members of a society so sensitive on nation state and sovereignty issues, it first appeared to be not a wise idea. However, long before Özal completed his first term in office as Prime Minister, the concept has already become one of the pillars of Turkish foreign policy.
The mentality was quite simple and indeed was based on the reality of life that people who have something to lose would always prefer peaceful resolution of problems rather than resorting to aggression and brute force.
The new perception represented by Özal was the result of the accumulation of the Turkish experiences since the end of the Second World War and new circumstances presented by the end of the Cold War. Fortunately, Turkey was quick under Özal to grasp the new realities and dynamics of the changing international climate.
After World War II, when Turkey's export boom came to an abrupt end, Turkey was faced with four major tasks: to gear the economy to lower prices on export items; to augment and open new areas of economic activity while keeping its armed forces at the level of the war years due to the Soviet threat; to finance the modernization of its armed forces; and to finance industrial development.
Turkey became increasingly dependent on foreign aid and credits and particularly on the United States during the Democratic Party regime in the 1950s. Under the leadership of Özal, Turkey truly liberalized its economy in the 1980s, a trend that, despite the worst economic crisis in the history of the Turkish Republic, was particularly aggravated over the past three decades. Turkey, however, managed to leave behind, hopefully, the latest economic crisis in Europe, partly because of the radical and painful economic programs it applied under IMF and World Bank duress after the 2001-2002 crises. That crisis, anyhow, is being considered by many political analysts as the fundamental reason behind the rise to power of the current Islamist political team.
Economic considerations have acquired a more significant role in foreign policy making since World War II, and especially since the advent of globalization. Turkey's application for membership of NATO was in part born of economic considerations: more aid, military and economic, could be had in the security system. But Turkey's relations with the West have been topsy-turvy at times. Since the late 1960s, relations between the West and Turkey have deteriorated, an example being the 1975 American arms embargo and Western European countries' withholding of credits and military assistance. These measures were taken in the wake of the Greco-Turkish differences over Cyprus and the Aegean, leading to the Turkish intervention in Cyprus in 1974. While these economic sanctions adversely affected diplomatic and economic relations with the West, they did not lead to a major change in Turkey's attachment to the Western security system.
After the Customs Union Agreement, full membership of the European Union remains a central aim of Turkey. In this sense, receiving candidate status in 1999 at the Helsinki Conference and an assertion in the 2001 Laeken Summit declaration that Turkey was coming closer to opening accession talks, and subsequently in December 2004 Turkey getting a date for the opening of accession talks and finally starting accession talks in October 2005 can be regarded as a major successes.
The perennial human rights violations that were considered in the 1980s and '90s as the main stumbling block to Turkey's eventual EU membership have decreased over the years. Yet, particularly since the 2007 elections in the country there appears to be a systematic revanchist campaign of political Islam against the rest of the Turkish society, turning the country into what is often caricaturized as "empire of fear." With almost 100 journalists and writers behind bars, obviously Turkey cannot belong to a club of democracies. Obviously, the more autocratic, totalitarian and hegemonic the current administration becomes, the more Turkey will be distracted from EU membership even if it economically creates miracles.
EU membership is an economic, political and strategic aim of Turkey and its realization would eventually require development of a sound strategic vision both on the part of Turkey and at each and every one of the member states of the club of democracies.
Indeed, this process has helped Turkey undertake some serious democratization reforms, particularly in the initial 2003-2005 period of the current Justice and Development Party, or AKP, governance. A thorough revision of the political system, changes introduced to the composition of the National Security Council, in essence meaning a comprehensive downgraded role for the Turkish military in the political affairs of the country, were all steps taken in the right direction. Yet, while getting rid of the military tutelage over politics, in the same period the AKP governance has consolidated its tutelage over politics, bureaucracy as well as the judiciary, creating a more dreadful beast. Still, since the AKP managed to eradicate what appeared for decades an intractable military hegemony over politics, a problem hampering the advance of democracy, eventual eradication of the hegemonic network created by the AKP in the governance of the country will hopefully be far more easier.
The forces of continuity responsible for the Western orientation of Turkey's foreign policy have been subject to far-reaching changes, particularly in light of the demise of the Soviet Union.
As a regional power, or middle-range power, Turkey has entered the twenty-first century with a new series of challenges. However, the Western orientation of its foreign policy will remain--seen as it is in Ankara as serving the national interests of Turkey.
THE CYPRUS HEADACHE
While Turkey tends to ignore today the EU concerns over the intractable Cyprus problem and its potential detrimental impacts on the accession process, it is a fact that the accession process has come to a de facto halt today primarily, but definitely not solely because of the Cyprus issue.
While the Cyprus problem continues, relations between Athens and Ankara continue to thaw, with Greece accommodating Turkey in the latter's move for full EU membership. On the other hand Greek Cypriots, since their May 2004 EU accession, have been trying to use their EU membership as a weapon to advance their political demands from the Turkish Cypriot side by holding hostage Turkey's EU aspirations. The French and German short-sighted and devoid of strategic vision policies of lending support to the Greek Cypriots, unfortunately, have been further complicating Turkey's EU process, as well as a settlement on the eastern Mediterranean island.
This is not of course the right place to discuss the fundamental mistakes of the EU, the parties negotiating for the past several decades how to reach a settlement on the island or Turkey, but the Cyprus problem has become a perennial headache for Turkey's European vocation.
Yet, recent discovery of hydrocarbon riches off the island, an issue that appears to be an added headache today, might become the driving force or at least a factor facilitating a resolution of the Cyprus problem. Coupled with the efforts underway to provide the island with water from Anatolia through a pipeline, in full contrast to today's darkening atmosphere of pessimism, provide a glimpse of hope for a solution on the island.
The absence of political will, unfortunately, has been marring a settlement. However, the two peoples of the island may capture the opportunity of financing the cost of their decades-old problem of power sharing through hydrocarbon riches and flourish with the water provided by Ankara and thus convert the island into an "island of peace" rather than one of continued discord.
Surely, both peoples on the island have a lot to gain from a mutually acceptable resolution.
For Greek Cypriots, the benefits would be mainly in the fields of security, stability and economics. Cyprus is only 40 miles away from Turkey, and is more than 600 miles away from mainland Greece. The existing antagonistic relationship with the Turkish Cypriots and Turkey is giving Greek Cypriots a strong sense of insecurity. A mutually acceptable settlement would leave no ground for this concern. A resolution would, at the same time, provide for mutual access to each other's economies and societies, including the vast opportunities that the Turkish economy and market would offer.
Moreover, the added stability and synergy would help develop the island as a focal point to serve the entire region with the experience at its disposal in dealing with cross-civilization and cross-cultural issues.
A settlement in Cyprus would also result in the closure of the territorial, property and missing persons issues which have haunted Greek Cypriot society for decades.
The Greek Cypriot political culture has, for a long time, been preoccupied with Hellenism, pan-Hellenism and a Hellenistic state in Cyprus. The establishment of a "Partnership State" could open the door for a post-modern integrative relationship to take hold in Cyprus, the way this is happening in the broader European context.
For Turkish Cypriots, a resolution in Cyprus would mean an end to their more than five-decade-long imposed isolation. It would also mean the re-recognition of their equal status and sovereign equality as one of the two constituent peoples of the island. At the same time, a resolution would provide the Turkish Cypriot people with equal opportunities to benefit from their human and material resources and potential. It would mean an end to the siege that has been imposed on the Turkish Cypriot people and their economy, thus terminating the state of limbo. Obviously, alienation and being denied of the opportunity to see a future for yourself on your own motherland are the parents of all tools of torture.
The achievement of a settlement in Cyprus would also:
*Deepen the Turkish-Greek detente, which began with the unfortunate earthquakes that left thousands in pain;
*Strengthen the pivotal role Turkey and Greece could jointly play in the region;
*Assist the Turkish-European convergence process; and
*Foster regional security and stability.
From the global perspective, most important of all, a viable partnership arrangement would bring together two "civilizations" on a cooperative, not a clashing, basis. In other words, in the post-Sept. 11, 2001 era, we have the historic chance to establish a model for sustainable peace between these two civilizations. At a time when we are seeking remedies against threats posed by state and non-state actors, such as terrorism, the transformative strategies followed and the partnership arrangements reached in Cyprus could assist others in designing models and coping with the sources of social conflict and their ramifications.
The EU will also be among the primary beneficiaries. The resolution of the Cyprus issue would not only facilitate Turkey's EU process, but would also contribute tremendously to Europe's own security and stability needs, and to its Mediterranean policies. A comprehensive settlement that maintains the balance between Turkey and Greece vis-a-vis their relations with Cyprus would also foster EU-Turkey relations. A Turkey in the EU, in the same club as the two other guarantors, Greece and the United Kingdom, would be the strongest safeguard for systemic security and stability in the island and in the region. That is, a comprehensive settlement in Cyprus as an inescapable necessity for promoting peace and stability, not only on the island of Cyprus, but also in the region.
THE ARMENIA ISSUE
Undoubtedly the rise of Eurasia in the global arena is the most exciting development. Turkish influence in the republics of the former Soviet Union is especially evident in Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan; Turkish influence in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan lags somewhat behind.
The potential for future Ankara-Moscow co-operative relations exists, but depends on internal developments in the Russian Federation itself. The United States will continue to be Turkey's primary ally, and Turkey's membership in NATO will remain one of the crowning glories of its foreign policy successes. Turkey's integration progress with the EU is open to speculation, but full membership of the EU will be achieved eventually.
In short, Turkey will hopefully maintain its status as a middle-range, regional power at the center of European affairs. Turkey will continue to look to the West, just as Atatürk did in the preceding century, while pursuing foreign policy goals maximizing Turkey's national interests, especially within an increasingly global economic climate.
Turkey has social and cultural ties with the Caucasian states and has special interest in establishing peace, stability and cooperation in the region. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Turkey recognized immediately the independence of the Caucasian countries without any discrimination.
Turkey's approach to the Caucasus region is shaped by its desire to establish comprehensive co-operation in the region with the contribution of all three states. In this framework consolidation of their independence, to the protection of their territorial integrity and to the realization of their economic potential are of utmost importance for Ankara.
We may want to ignore and perhaps try to downplay it as much as possible, but there is a serious problem between Turkey and Armenia, or indeed between Turkey and Armenians, regarding what happened in the first quarter of the previous century. The 1915 events or the Armenian genocide claims have been poisoning not only Turkish-Armenian relations, but also entire prospects of regional cooperation for peace and stability as well as economic development.
Turkey's offers for the creation of a committee of historians to work under the aegis of UNICEF to shed light on what indeed happened in 1915 was a positive move that received international support and eventually led to the signing in 2007 of the US-brokered protocols for better relations between Turkey and Armenia. Those protocols, unfortunately, fell victim to domestic political squabbles, died out and could not be ratified by parliaments of the two countries. If not addressed with urgency by governments of the two countries, I am afraid in the next few years towards the centennial of the alleged events, relations between Turkey and Armenia and Turkey's web of relations with countries supportive of Armenian claims would suffer drastically.
However, improved relations between Turkey and Armenia might offer direct and secure land access for Turkish products to a vast geography up to the China Wall, and beyond (a market that Turkey cannot ignore under global conditions), while with land connection with the world through Turkey reopened, isolation of Armenia from the international community of nations will end.
But, Turkish-Armenian rapprochement, unfortunately, has fallen victim yet another adventure: The Armenian occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh.
The solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh and Abkhazia conflicts constitutes one of the important and urgent issues for peace and stability in the region. On Jan. 12, 2002, we, a group of Turkish journalists, were at Nagorno-Karabakh. To our surprise, and contrary to our anticipations, the local authorities there appeared more preoccupied with the problem posed by the rats rather than the political problem at hand.
Within this framework, and within the understanding that increased trade, social contacts, inter-action at all levels of our societies, that is by creating interdependence, we can build and consolidate peace easier, we have been suggesting an end to the Turkish economic blockade on Armenia, which is useful only to mafias and some Iranian and Georgian businessmen only. We have been suggesting return of occupied territories to Azerbaijan, with or without a settlement on Nagorno-Karabakh, and return of displaced Azerbaijanis to those territories.
Nagorno-Karabakh requires a political settlement. Political leaders can only bring a political settlement if the populations of the two countries are ready for such a move.
Already more than two decades have passed since the Azeri population of the area were cleansed and substantial portion of territory around Nagorno-Karabakh, along with the mountainous region, were occupied by Armenian troops. The immediate problem posed by the empty Azeri houses and uncultivated Azeri lands might surface as that created by the rats, but if this problem is not addressed with urgency and years were allowed to pass without concrete steps towards establishment and consolidation of peace, the implications of this problem on regional pace and stability will be aggravated.
As has been the case in most of the bilateral or multilateral problems, the Nagorno-Karabakh problem led to an evident mutual mistrust between the Azeri and Armenian peoples, adding new elements of discord to the existing Turkish-Armenian problem. Thus, the first and foremost requirement of establishment of peace in the region ought to be creation of an atmosphere of trust. Confidence-building measures are not easy to implement, but they are sine qua non (prerequisites) of peace taking foot.
I believe that the peaceful resolution of all conflicts in Caucasian states will contribute to the political stability and economic well-being of these countries and will open up prospects for regional cooperation.
And, at this point responsibility lies with the non-governmental organizations, besides the governments, in encouraging social contacts and fostering confidence. That's what we are trying to do here today. That's what we shall be trying to do in our future contacts.
As intellectuals, members of NGOs, civil society members, we should all be aware that we cannot solve problems ourselves. That should not be our mission or duty anyhow. But, I say if we unite our hands, brains and pens we can help creation of an atmosphere that can be utilized by the relevant bodies of our states to work for the establishment of permanent peace in this region.
The media and opinion makers of the regions and of the countries interested in seeing establishment of an atmosphere of tranquility in the eastern Mediterranean, in the Caucasus or elsewhere have an extremely important role to play in order to lay the ground upon which the quest for political peace and settlement by decision makers can be provided. With the awareness of this exclusive role, I attach special value to all efforts based on the promise to further consolidate bonds of cooperation and collaboration for establishing understanding between peoples divided by political problems and terminating the atmosphere of hostility and mistrust between them.
JE comments: If I calculate correctly, Yusuf Kanli is delivering his paper at the Ankara ICD conference at this very moment. Yusuf provides a most thorough overview of the diplomatic challenges facing today's Turkey. I am very pleased that he's booked passage on the Goodship WAIS!