(Photo Credit: mr_smee44’s Photostream)
The International Crisis Group (ICG) published a report earlier this week on “Turkey And The Middle East: Ambitions and Constraints.” The paper is an excellent primer on Turkey’s growing and complicated role in the region.
The report leads to the conclusion that Turkey’s potential to transmit liberal values and economic prosperity can do much more for the region than its high-profile efforts to facilitate dialogue and mediate compromises among its neighbors. The report notes, for example, that Turkey’s economy produces the equivalent of half the entire output of the Middle East and North Africa.
As one Turkish diplomat in the Middle East told the Crisis Group:
The priority is not mediation or conflict resolution per se; we are not really achieving many results and that’s perhaps not the point anyway. The point is to be visible, to look like a power, to make our neighbors like us, to achieve stability which will help economic growth and to increase trade and investments.
But contributing to stability abroad requires consolidating democracy at home. That means first and foremost achieving an equilibrium between the staunchly secular state and the more religiously inclined government, while remaining committed to the European Union accession process and the liberal reforms it requires.
The government’s constitutional amendment proposal presented to Parliament last week is the most recent manifestation of the ongoing struggle for power and ideological preeminence between the state and the government that represents the greatest constraint on Turkey’s regional role.
The report also decisively rejects the common misconception in the United States and Europe that Turkey is “turning away from the West” toward the East. In fact, Turkey’s reengagement is pragmatic rather than ideological and is meant to compliment rather than replace its Western orientation. This is evidenced, for example, by the fact that Europe still accounts for half of Turkey’s international trade.
The full report can be read here.
Readers interested in this topic should also read “A Neighborhood Rediscovered,” a recent paper by German Marshall Fund Transatlantic Academy Fellows Kemal Kirisci, Nathalie Tocci, and Joshua Walker.
— Ben Katcher