Country Report Turkey January 2011

Outlook for 2011-15: International relations

Assuming that the AKP will remain in office after the mid-2011 general election, we expect a good degree of continuity in Turkish foreign policy, although until the election, action aimed at bolstering domestic support for the AKP, such as voicing criticism of Israel and the US, is likely to increase. Beyond the election, the mainstay of the AKP's foreign policy will remain striking a balance between maintaining good relations with Turkey's traditional Western allies and improving ties with its neighbours, notably Iraq, Syria, Iran and Russia, its main energy supplier. Slow progress on EU membership negotiations, closer ties with Iran, and a sharp deterioration in relations with Israel have led to accusations that under the AKP Turkey is turning away from the West. We believe that this view is misplaced. The AKP's policy of "zero problems with neighbours" has been consistent with EU requirements.

The AKP has supported UN-backed efforts to resolve the division of Cyprus. However, whether the AKP stays in power or not, it is unlikely that a solution acceptable to both the Greek and Turkish Cypriots will be found. Before the election, the Erdogan government is unlikely to pressure the nationalist Turkish Cypriot president, Dervish Eroglu, to reach an agreement. Beyond the election, the government will have no pressing reason to facilitate a Cyprus settlement, as Turkey's EU accession process is likely to remain in the doldrums.

Turkish-US relations have been better under the current US president, Barack Obama, than under his predecessor, George W Bush. However, major areas of disagreement persist, and there is a considerable risk that this could lead to another sharp deterioration in the short to medium term. The crisis in Turkey's relations with Israel, Turkey's efforts to maintain positive relations with Iran and the threat of a full vote in the US Congress in the coming weeks to recognise as genocide the massacre of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915-17 will continue to cause tension.

© 2011 The Economist lntelligence Unit Ltd. All rights reserved
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