Country Report Turkey April 2011

Outlook for 2011-15: International relations

Assuming that the AKP will remain in office after the general election in mid-2011, we expect a good degree of continuity in Turkish foreign policy. However, 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" is consistent with EU requirements. Moreover, as turmoil has spread in the Arab world, from Tunisia to Egypt and Libya, many Western observers have pointed to Turkey as a democratic model for other Muslim countries.

The AKP has supported UN-backed efforts to resolve the division of Cyprus. However, a solution that is acceptable to both the Greek and Turkish Cypriots is unlikely to be found. The differences between the two sides remain considerable and 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 to recognise as genocide the massacre of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915-17 will continue to cause tension.

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