By İhsan Yılmaz, Today's Zaman
Turkey is in a very difficult sociopolitical area, full of challenges and opportunities. It is obvious that isolationism is not an option for Turkey, which needs a proactive and dynamic foreign policy. Mr. Gül as president is an excellent chance for Turkey at this juncture. We desperately need harmonious relations between the president, the government and especially the Foreign Ministry.
We are surrounded by difficult neighbors and we must use our energies efficiently. The European Union accession process, democratization and economic development will hopefully minimize the energy we have to spend with regards to the Aegean Sea and Cyprus problems. The Turkish part of Cyprus will no longer be economically deprived in 10 years' time, even if the status quo continues. As tourism and construction industries will prosper the country, the Turkish Cypriots will no longer be harmed by the unjust isolation. Thus we can focus our foreign policy energies toward the chaotic East, as I assume the EU process will naturally be an important business of the whole government anyway.
Iraq is becoming Vietnam the Second very fast. Before the invasion, about half of the British people opposed it. Now almost everyone in the UK wants the British troops to be withdrawn without severing ties with the US. We do not know what the post-Bush US administration will decide, but there are signs that they are losing hope. Iraq will be our major foreign policy issue and we need to convince the Iraqis that a divided Iraq is not for the good of the Middle East and that nobody can win if Iraq is divided.
To convince we need to be credible. To be credible we first need to treat all our citizens well, including Kurds, Armenians, Greeks, Jews and Turks. A prosperous and fully democratic Turkey with good human rights record will almost be free of Kurdophobia, Arabophobia and yes, Islamophobia and thus will be more credible. President Gül can easily be a "symbol" of this new era with the help of the government and this symbol, even without any political power, will be an efficient foreign policy instrument. This is the real "peace at home, peace abroad."
President Gül will also be in constant dialogue with the world's NGOs and diaspora --Turkish, Kurdish, Alevi, Jewish, Armenian and Greek -- and will establish close, friendly and sincere ties with them. He will actively look for ways of peacefully coexisting in the global village by agreeing to disagree.
The new Turkish foreign policy should also actively deal with the Nagorno-Karabakh problem so that we can start normalizing our relations with Armenia in order to speak more easily about the Armenian genocide allegations. Otherwise many of our allies will increase their efforts to use this problem as a bargaining chip against Turkey. We have to face this problem and creatively tackle it.
We also need to be in close dialogue with Israel and the Jewish diaspora to explain to them that the 70 million people living in Turkey have also existential priorities, to ask for reciprocal empathy and to underline that in this telecommunications age, it is no longer possible not to listen to the people in democratic Turkey. The recent election results should have shown that the Turkish people do not like top-down interference, enforced policy and pro-coup lobbying.
It is obvious that a powerful army is also an important part of the foreign policy and equally obvious is that to have a powerful army we need to have a strong economy and this cannot be achieved without full democracy in Turkey. It is true that Turkey is not Norway, but it is not China either.
To reach and protect full democracy we also need to have -- among other obvious things -- efficient government intelligence apparatus that will operate at home and abroad.
To summarize, Turkey will need to double its Foreign Ministry and intelligence budgets and personnel in the Gül era for creative solutions.
Creative foreign policy in the Gül era
President Gül will also be in constant dialogue with the world's NGOs and diaspora --Turkish, Kurdish, Alevi, Jewish, Armenian and Greek -- and will establish close, friendly and sincere ties with them.
By İhsan Yılmaz, Today's Zaman