Turkey’s Frontline Foreign Policy

JERUSALEM – A few months before he became Turkey’s foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s chief adviser, met with a group of Middle Eastern academics and policy experts, including Arabs and Israelis. With his academic background and immense erudition, he succeeded in painting, on a wide canvass, the new directions of Turkey’s policies under the Justice and Development Party (AKP) leadership.

By then, it had become clear that Turkey’s road to the European Union had been closed, somewhat rudely, owing mainly to combined German and French pressure. But those who expected Islamist fire and brimstone from Davutoglu were deeply disappointed.

What was articulated was a levelheaded and sophisticated exposé, seldom heard from policymakers: it was thoughtful, honest, and breath-taking. It was also a clear departure from the conventional foreign-policy straightjacket devised by Kemal Ataturk, which had for decades forced Turkish diplomacy into the Procrustean bed of 1920’s-style integral nationalism.

Davutoglu began conventionally, declaring that Turkey’s geopolitical situation would always dictate the country’s foreign policy. Then came the bombshell: contrary to the conventional Kemalist view of the One and Indivisible Turkish Nation, Davutoglu referred to what everyone has known since modern Turkey was created: the country has more Azeris than Azerbaijan, more people of Albanian origin than live in Albania, more people of Bosniak origin than live in Bosnia, and more Kurds than in Iraqi Kurdistan.