As we proceed to the end of the second decade of the 21st century, the parameters and the dynamics which had been referred for the definition of the international system in the previous centuries seem to be obsolete currently to understand the state affairs in a changing world.
Despite this increasing uncertainty and unpredictability in the international relations, Turkey, powered by its growing means and capabilities, strives to effectively respond to today’s challenges, in a determined and principled manner, as a reliable and responsible actor guided by the dictum: “Peace at Home, Peace in the World.”
Turkey lies at the epicenter of all the developments which take place in Eurasia and Middle East regions. The changing political and economic environment in its neighbourhood has made Turkey more vulnerable to an increasing number of challenges.
In this context, the evolving nature of competition from ideological rivalry of the Cold War era to the one defined by the pursuit of self-interest by great powers and other players throughout the world has made international relations more unpredictable. Hence, it would be incomplete to say that the Turkish foreign policy did not have its share from this change.
With a view to adapting itself to rapidly changing regional and international environment Turkey, with its newly adopted Presidential system of government, focuses on an enterprising and humanitarian foreign policy, which has a worldwide view of all the regions and partners around her. Turkey takes concrete initiatives to promote stability and prosperity in its region and beyond. All in all, the developments in its immediate neighbourhood and in the international arena at large have brought challenges along with opportunities.
Turkey is an actor aiming to enhance its ties and cooperation with all partners for peace, security, stability and prosperity with a cooperation-oriented understanding based on mutual respect and a win-win approach.
The priorities of Turkey’s foreign policy could be summarized in a nutshell, among others, strengthening regional security and stability, fighting against terrorism, protecting the rights of Turkish citizens, deepening her strategic ties, enhancing trade, energy and security networks, strengthening its ties with all geographies, enhancing cooperation within regional and international organizations and improving its soft power
Countering terrorism in an effective manner is at the top of Turkey’s agenda. Terrorism poses a major threat to international peace and security. It can only be addressed through effective international cooperation. Only joint action and solidarity can lead to a more secure and peaceful world.
In addition to its cross-border operations, she actively contributes to international efforts in the fight against terrorism. In 2011, the Global Counter Terrorism Forum (GCTF) was initiated by Turkey and the United States. Turkey co-chaired the GCTF over five years. Together with the EU, Turkey also co-chaired the “Horn of Africa Working Group” set up within the GCTF until September 2017. Simultaneously, she actively participates in the anti-DAESH coalition and its “Foreign Terrorist Fighters Working Group” (co-led by Turkey) and “Counter-Finance Working Group”.
The Syrian conflict is now in its 8th year. It has claimed more than half a million lives, created more than 5 million refugees and more than 6 million internally displaced persons. It caused terrorist organizations like DAESH and PYD/YPG to find fertile ground. Turkey would like to see a stable, prosperous and democratic future-Syria, which is able to preserve its political unity and territorial integrity and is governed in line with its people’s legitimate aspirations.
The Cyprus question is an issue of establishing a new partnership between the two co-owners of the Island. This new partnership would replace the one destroyed by the Greek Cypriot side in 1963.
Negotiations for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus issue have been going on for half a century under auspices of the UN. Each one of the various settlement processes since 1968 have failed due to this persistent Greek Cypriot attitude.
Turkey, from the very first days of its modern history, has identified itself with the Western values of democracy and free market economy. In this vein, it has been a close ally and partner of the US, a reliable member and partner of NATO for the last six decades, a founding member of the Council of Europe, the OSCE and the other leading European institutions and a negotiating candidate country for EU membership.
As a reflection of its multidimensional foreign policy, Turkey undertakes outreach and partnership strategies towards Africa, Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean.
In Africa, Turkey has increased the number of its embassies from 12 in 2002 to currently 41 to deepen its relations in all fields.
- an observer to (2005) and a strategic partner of the African Union (since 2008),
- a non-regional member of the African Development Bank (2013) and
- maintaining institutional relations with African regional economic communities such as Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), East African Community (EAC), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
- With Africa: From USD 2.9 billion (2002) to USD 18.8 billion (2017)
- With Sub-Saharan Africa: From USD 806 million (2002) to USD 7.1 billion (2017)
In Asia-Pacific, we have established strategic partnerships with Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia and Singapore.
We have established a strategic cooperation with China. We signed a MoU to align our Middle Corridor Initiative with the Belt and Road Initiative connecting Europe to Asia.
Turkey has also developed multilateral ties and become i) a sectoral dialogue partner with the ASEAN ii) a dialogue partner with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization iii) a Post Forum Dialogue Partner with the Pacific Islands Forum.
Trade volume: From USD 5.96 billion (2002) to USD 53.4 billion (2017)
New Embassies: Myanmar, Cambodia, Brunei, Laos (15 Embassies in total)
Turkey assumes active roles in prevention and peaceful resolution of conflicts, including through mediation, and in fostering mutual respect and common values around the globe.
Turkey’s efforts to highlight the importance of mediation in prevention and peaceful resolution of conflicts transcends into the multilateral sphere. In 2010, Turkey spearheaded, jointly with Finland, the “Mediation for Peace” initiative within the UN in order to raise awareness for mediation. The Group of “Friends of Mediation” formed within this framework has reached 56 members (48 states and 8 international/regional organizations). The Group has facilitated the adoption of four General Assembly resolutions on mediation so far. A similar group is co-chaired by Turkey-Finland-Switzerland at the OSCE.
As part of its leading role in the field of mediation, Turkey also hosts “Istanbul Conferences on Mediation”. The three conferences held in February 2012, April 2013 and June 2014 brought together representatives from various institutions, NGOs and experts. The 4th “Istanbul Conference on Mediation” was held on 30 June 2017 under the theme “Surge in Diplomacy, Action in Mediation”.
Turkey, as a Summit Chair of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), hosted the first ever OIC Member States Conference on Mediation on 21 November 2017 in İstanbul, with the theme “Surge in Mediation: The Role of OIC”.
Prejudices and discrimination are not given at birth but are learned. These negative attitudes might turn into forms of hate speech and even violence. Respect for social diversity and inclusive societies are crucial in our challenging world. We need to stand up against all forms of intolerance, xenophobia, and discriminatory policies, including animosities against different religions.
The UN Alliance of Civilizations Initiative, co-sponsored by Turkey and Spain, (currently with 146 members) represents the strongest response to the scenarios of the so-called “Clash of Civilizations”. Thus, boosting this global initiative is essential, now more than ever, for strengthening the “immunity system” of the world.
As a corollary of the enterprising policies, Turkey aims to strengthen its existing strategic ties and establish new ones. To enhance political dialogue and cooperation with its neighbors and countries in its wider region, Turkey has established High Level Strategic/Cooperation Council mechanisms with 24 countries. These mechanisms have invigorated bilateral relations in many substantial areas. Trade with HLCC countries increased from USD 14.8 billion in 2002 to USD 96.7 billion in 2017. Also, volume of the trade with neighbors arose from USD 13.32 billion in 2002 to USD 72.5 billion in 2017.
Immensely growing Turkish diplomatic outreach in the last two decades, currently totaling 240 missions abroad, accompanied her pursuit to follow such a vigorous foreign policy across the globe. With the planned 29 new missions in the upcoming period, we aim to increase the total number of our missions abroad to 269.With the current figure of 240 missions, Turkey has the fifth largest global network all over the world.
Humanitarian diplomacy is another indispensable aspect of Turkish foreign policy. Turkey has been a leading actor in humanitarian diplomacy with its focus on the human cause and through its official development and humanitarian aid.
Due to conflicts and disasters the world is now facing its worst human suffering. More than 60 million people have been forced from their homes owing to conflicts and violence. This is the biggest number of people being displaced since World War II. More than 200 million people are affected by disasters and need help. The gap between the needs and aid provided in response to humanitarian emergencies widens. In order to find solutions to this problem, the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit was organised jointly by the United Nations and Turkey in İstanbul on May 23 and 24, 2016. Nine-thousand participants from 180 Member States, including 55 Heads of State and Government came together in İstanbul. Turkey, in view of these challenges, maintains its tradition and pursues an enterprising and humanitarian foreign policy through its official development and humanitarian aid.
According to the OECD Development Assistance Committee, Turkey’s official development assistance (ODA) amounted to USD 8.142 billion in 2017. Humanitarian assistance has the biggest share in our ODA with an amount of USD 7.208 billion. Turkey was the biggest humanitarian aid donor worldwide in 2017 and the most generous donor when the ratio of official humanitarian assistance to national income (0.85%) is taken into consideration.
Turkey has spent USD 31 billion (including municipalities and Turkish NGOs) for the Syrian refugees, whereas the total contribution we received from the international community is far from meeting the expectations (USD 526 million internationally, plus 1.9 billion Euros under FRIT from the first 3 billion Euros pledged by the EU).
As a continuation of its traditional policy towards the refugees, Turkey has been pursuing an open door policy for Syrians who had to flee their country in the past seven years due to ongoing violence. Over 3.5 million Syrians are currently hosted in Turkey.
Turkey maintains its position as the biggest host country according to the UN Refugee Agency figures. More than 600 thousand Syrian children continue their education in Turkey. The schooling rate among Syrian children in the age of primary education is 97 percent. Furthermore, the number of Syrian teenagers studying in Turkish universities is over 20 thousand.
Turkey extends its helping hand indiscriminately, not only in response to emergencies in its region but also from the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar to Yemen, from Colombia to Vietnam, from Nepal to Libya and Sudan, whether it is an emergency resulting from a conflict or a natural disaster.
After all, Turkey’s humanitarian contributions cannot be confined to bilateral assistance projects. Turkey aims to further increase its contributions to various international organisations, as well. Turkey is closely working and cooperating with the UN and its related institutions. In order to assist further and to offer guidance to the UN’s humanitarian efforts, Turkey became a member of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) Donor Support Group, which brings together leading humanitarian donors. Turkey also financially supports and increased its financial contribution to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in view of its recent budget constraints and provides also humanitarian aid through it.
The Multidirectional and multidimensional character of the Turkish foreign policy make it not only versatile but action oriented as well. However, this does not lead to the negligence of moral values in its foreign policy.
To sum up, based on the concrete steps and actions on the ground and the content of the policies, we call Turkish foreign policy enterprising and humanitarian basically because it is a realist, independent, peaceful, creative, effective and virtuous – a foreign policy able to employ various elements of power at the same time in a rational way, a foreign policy not hesitant of taking initiatives, a foreign policy that takes into account peace and development nexus.
Written by the Turkish ambassador to the Gambia, H.E. Ismail Sefa Yuceer.