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COMMENTARY: Winning and losing in Turkey

05 August 2014 [09:10] - TODAY.AZ
By Rufiz Hafizoglu - Trend:

When the Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in Turkey in 2002, they brought many changes to the country.

One of the main reasons for the party's success was that Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the party's leader, chose a political line that took into account the realities of the region. Another reason was that there was no viable alternative.

Erdogan and his AKP took Turkey back into the regions once part of the Ottoman Empire. Within a short while Turkey became re-immersed in Middle East politics. In short, Erdogan undid much of Atatuk's policies of turning Turkey away from the Arab and Muslim worlds, hoping to integrate with Europe.

Ankara began approaching Syria, Iraq and a number of Arab countries, with which it previously had strained relations, on the basis of the "zero problems with neighbors" policy, authored by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

Ankara's policy on rapprochement with the Arab countries was considered ambiguous, but it was inevitable. Ankara's rapproachment with the Arab countries, much to the detriment of Israel, was inevitable.

Ankara and the EU began formal negotiations in 2005. After launching the talks, Ankara started some significant political and economic reforms in the country. One of the most important economic reforms was monetary reform, resulting in the Turkish lira rate appreciation. A new Turkish lira was put into circulation in 2005.

There were assumptions that Erdogan's reform would cause serious economic crisis in the country, but these projections did not come true.

On the contrary, for the first time in its history, Turkey refused the loan offered by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2008, and paid off its debt to the IMF in May 2013.

By carrying out economic reforms, the country made progress in resolving the unemployment problem. Turkey's export increased by 3.2 times over the last ten years and stood at $ 152 billion versus $47.3 billion in 2003.

Turkey carried out significant reforms in all fields, including in human rights, as it enacted certain laws that were required for the EU. However, as the EU dragged its heels on the question of Turkey's admittance to the Brussels club, relations between the two soured.

Despite meeting all the requirements from the European Union, the EU dragged its feet and did not allow Turkey to join. In fact there were a number of statements made by Turkish officials describing how the country was losing interest in the EU.

The outbreak of the revolution in Tunisia, the developments in Egypt, Libya and Syria could bring Turkey's influence to a peak. Nevertheless, the 'Arab Spring' that ended in a fiasco in Syria and Egypt, ruined all the expectations. Turkey lost Egypt, Iraq and Syria as a result of the foreign policy pursued by the country's government.

On the one hand, Turkey has gained economic victory by carrying out reforms from 2002 to the present time. On the other hand, Turkey was left alone as a result of the foreign policy pursued by its government. Nevertheless, it doesn't mean that the country lost its leverage in the region.

The ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the existence of Hamas, the threat posed by ISIL in Iraq, the existence of Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) that has a stronger political will than the Iraqi government and has ties to Turkey, the relations between Turkey and the Syrian opposition give ground to say that Turkey hasn't lost its leverage in the region.

Taking all this into account, we can predict who will win in the presidential election in Turkey on Aug.10. Some changes can be expected in the country's internal policy however, there will be no significant changes in foreign policy.

Rufiz Hafizoglu is the head of Trend Arabic News Service

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