On 22 October 2009, Istanbul Kultur University- Global Political Trends Center (IKU/GPoT) and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Foundation’s office in Turkey jointly organized a roundtable meeting on “Turkish foreign policy today, with special reference to the Middle East and Arab World”, with the participation of prominent figures from the Arab League (e.g. ambassadors, counselors, ministers plenipotentiaries) and Turkish experts ranging from media to academia.
The main themes elaborated on during the roundtable meeting were; the dynamic politics of Turkey in the Middle East and its current initiatives, which point towards a shift from a traditional and largely passive as well as uni-dimensional political behavior to a more active one, with a special emphasis on the application of the “strategic depth” concept in the region and on “zero problems with neighboring countries”.
After outlining a general historical background of the relations between Turkey and the Arab world, the participants discussed the current developments. In this context, it has been argued that since the AKP government came to power, Turkish foreign policy has been in a state of dynamic, pro-active and multidimensional change due to the internal factors (e.g. governmental policies, economical factors) as well as external parameters such as energy routes. The Arab participants expressed their appreciation vis-à-vis the reorientation of Turkish foreign policy in different areas in the Middle East and Arab world such as Syria (with whom Turkey took a decision to lift mutual visa requirements), Israel (with the organization of negotiations with Syria), as well as Palestine.
In a nutshell, Turkey has been orientating toward peace diplomacy in the region in order to establish a climate of stability and peace in the Middle East, in line with the statement by the Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoğlu, “the security of Turkey starts beyond its borders”. However, it has been argued that Turkey has no plan to replace or compete with any country of the region through its current initiatives. In addition, the Arab participants agreed that Turkish foreign policy has benefited from the vacuumm of regional power in the Arab world that is lacking unity.
However, it has been emphasized that this reorientation should not be seen as a project to be focused solely on Middle East, but as a part of a diplomatic strategy which enriches and complements the other arenas of diplomacy. On this background, Turkey is and will always be committed to its European Union membership project by conducting “rhythmic diplomacy”.