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Turks see no shift in foreign policy, survey reveals

04 January 2010 [13:09] - TODAY.AZ
The majority of Turks believe that there has been no significant shift in Turkey's foreign policy and label Ankara's moves to improve its bilateral cooperation with neighboring countries as “normal,” a recent survey has found.
The survey, titled “Change of Direction in Turkish Foreign Policy and Perception of Relations with Neighbors,” was conducted by the Ankara-based International Strategic Research Organization (USAK). The results of face-to-face interviews with 2,000 people in five provinces, namely Ankara, İstanbul, İzmir, Adana and Trabzon, were announced by USAK on the last day of 2009 and revealed that 57 percent of those surveyed believe that there has been no serious deviation in Turkey's foreign policy.

Turkey’s expanded presence in the foreign policy arena has long been visible to many, with some commentators suggesting that this signifies a shift in foreign policy orientation, with Ankara turning its back on the Western alliance and moving toward a closer and more institutionalized cooperation with the Islamic world instead. Ankara has consistently rejected such arguments, calling them reminiscent of a Cold War mentality.

While only 12 percent of Turks said they believed that “there has been a deviation” in foreign policy, 13 percent said that “there has been a partial deviation.” Another 18 percent said they had no knowledge of the issue.

In response to the question “Do you believe that it is right for Turkey to develop its relations with its neighbors?” 58.4 percent replied that they consider these moves concerning Turkey’s neighbors to be normal. A full 21.1 percent replied “Yes, I find it very right,” while 10 percent said that they find these moves “partially right.” Only 9 percent of interviewees replied “no” to the same question.

Speaking at a press conference in Ankara on the last day of 2009, Davutoğlu gave a comprehensive review and evaluation of Turkey’s multidimensional foreign policy moves during the past year.

A country like Turkey which has the potential to directly intervene in international problems cannot embrace a one-dimensional approach or an approach that addresses only one particular region, Davutoğlu said at the briefing.

“Our axis is an Ankara axis, and our horizon is 360 degrees. We don’t consider debates held around the notion of a shift of axis as good-intentioned,” Davutoğlu added.

During 2009, President Abdullah Gül made 29 trips abroad, while Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited 23 countries. Former Foreign Minister Ali Babacan and Davutoğlu paid 93 visits abroad in total in 2009, Davutoğlu explained. Among those 93 visits, 47 of them were paid to European countries, 15 to Asian countries, 22 to the Middle East and nine to the United States, he noted, highlighting that all of these figures actually reflect the expanded area in which Turkey has been involved.

Turkey’s proactive foreign policy activities from the Pacific to Latin America will continue, while it will also grow in regards to its content with a foreign policy understanding which is not solely based on diplomatic actions, but is also based on activities in fields of energy, economy, trade, culture, transportation and health.

In the survey conducted by USAK, when asked whether they would “describe [themselves] as anti-West,” 58.25 percent of those polled replied “no,” while only 12.7 percent of respondents described themselves as “anti-West.”

The survey also clearly revealed that the public support for Turkey’s European Union membership process is still low, as has been the case in the last few similar surveys. Only 48.5 percent of respondents said they supported Turkey’s EU membership, while 28 percent voiced “partial support” and 20.5 expressed their objection to Turkey’s EU membership.

The EU opened accession talks with Ankara -- an EU candidate since 1999 -- in October 2005, but these talks have been progressing slowly amid opposition from France and Germany. The unresolved Cyprus dispute and a slowdown of reforms in Turkey are other factors hampering the accession process.

When asked to define the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party) stance on foreign policy, 37 percent described it as “national,” 19 percent as “pro-Europe,” 15 percent as “pro-American,” 11.75 as “pro-Islam,” 10.25 as “pro-Ottoman,” and 7 percent as “liberal.”

Fully 46.5 percent of respondents supported improving economic relations with Iran, while 52 percent said they wanted Turkey to improve its relations with Syria in the economic field.

Questions regarding Turkish-Israeli relations, which have deteriorated since Israel’s deadly offensive in Gaza last winter, were also posed to the interviewees. A majority of the people, 63 percent, said they approved of Turkey’s policy toward Israel, while 39 percent said they don’t want improvement of relations with Israel in any field.

Meanwhile, 37.7 of respondents said Turkey had no ally. Azerbaijan is considered the country’s top ally, by 19.5 percent; Bosnia and Herzegovina by 13 percent; and the United States comes in third at 12.5 percent. Only 2.75 percent of respondents said they consider EU countries allies of Turkey.

/Today's Zaman/

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