PM Erdo?an reaffirms Turkey’s role as global player with UN speech

EM?NE KART
?STANBUL


Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an said on Thursday in reference to Somalia that the UN has not been able to show the necessary leadership to conquer the fears threatening humanity and lift their hopes.
PM Recep Tayyip Erdo?an’s address at the UN General Assembly on Thursday reflected Turkey’s ambitions of being a global player in dealing with deeply rooted conflicts on the world agenda, while the speech also displayed deficiencies of the global system to handle these conflicts.
The scope of the speech itself was the boldest sign of Turkey and its leader Erdo?an’s assertiveness. In addition to hot topics such as the humanitarian crisis in Somalia, the stalled Middle East peace process and Palestine’s bid for UN recognition, Israel’s stubbornness to meet the requirements of international law, the Arab Spring, the Syrian regime’s oppression of its own people, the transition process in Libya and Arab Spring in general; frozen conflicts such the Nagorno-Karabakh between Armenia and Azerbaijan and the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan also found a place in the speech.
“The speech was an open and systemic criticism against the functioning and structure of the international system. Within this framework, he used Somalia as an example and harshly criticized the global system for remaining indifferent to grievances in Africa,” Prof. Birol Akgün, a specialist with the Institute of Strategic Thinking (SDE), told Today’s Zaman on Friday.

“The prime minister called on the international community to work toward justice, morality and compassion. He cited the colonialist past of Western countries in the African continent and how unjust they were by ignoring Africa. Erdo?an exposed the double-standard wielded by the West’s self-interest-oriented system, as some Western countries are showing close interest in Libya while they do not show the same kind of interest toward Somalia,” Akgün said.

According to Sinan Ülgen, head of the ?stanbul-based Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies (EDAM), the fact that the prime minister spoke of a wide region is not an extraordinary situation.

“However, the language he used is different and it reflects Turkey’s will to play a more leading role in the international arena. Looking at the issues highlighted in the speech, it is possible to say that Turkey may not necessarily be successful in resolving of all of these issues,” Ülgen told Today’s Zaman.

Ülgen recalled that Turkey is playing a role in issues in which it is not a direct party such as Somalia and argued that this is to Turkey’s credit in the international arena.

“Turkey is using this credit to make progress in other areas. It is carrying the partnerships and alliances it established on a particular issue to other areas to resolve other conflicts. All of these will be advantages for Turkey. No matter whether the particular problems mentioned by Erdo?an will be resolved in a short-run or not, Turkey will carry its experience in dealing with these problems to the field of multilateral diplomacy in order to become a global player,” Ülgen said.

While speaking of Ankara’s foreign policy, Turkish officials avoid using concepts which can be associated with a kind of power game and sidestep questions over its position as a regional actor. Instead, Ankara prefers to note that the dynamics and principles of Turkey’s foreign policy are based on the notion of moral depth.

Officials say the government doesn’t consider its foreign policy as a test of power. Turkish foreign policy is not about flexing its muscles, but it is a manifestation of what kind of a world Turkey wants to see, they underline.

Nonetheless, Akgün believes that Erdo?an’s speech at the UN General Assembly is about Turkey’s redefinition of its international identity.

“Turkey has assumed an identity which exerts efforts for a new legal and institutionalized structure based on justice and a sense of morality,” Akgün said.

According to Ali Karaosmano?lu, head of the Ankara-based Foreign Policy and Peace Research Center, Erdo?an’s speech reflects the fact that Turkey is becoming a pioneering country on an international scale, not only on a regional scale.

“After the end of the Cold War, regional policies became more important since global balances changed. Turkey’s voice is beginning to be heard in some regions,” Karaosmano?lu told Today’s Zaman.

“Turkey, as a country which embraces post-Cold War concepts such as human rights, democracy and a liberal economy, and as a country which has a Muslim majority population, is able to touch the hearts of the people in the Middle East. On the other hand, it is also able to openly call on the Middle Eastern countries to embrace human rights, democracy and a liberal economy,” Karaosmano?lu said.

“All of these characteristics are advantages of Turkey in the region and it is also an advantage to play a global role. Since the United States is not able to have a relationship with the countries from the region in the same way as Turkey, Washington is pleased with Turkey’s role in this region,” he added.

‘Why not vie for global power?’

In remarks which strengthen aforementioned arguments by experts, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Ar?nç on Friday said Turkey can and will become a global power, while indicating that the country would not stop at its claim to regional power and could aim higher in the global arena.

“We consider it small progress for Turkey to become a regional power. And why shouldn’t Turkey become a global power?” Ar?nç rhetorically asked members of the international media during a visit to Brussels. Answering questions regarding Turkey’s relations with the EU, Ar?nç reaffirmed that Turkey would not settle for regional strength, that it has the means to vie for global strength and wants to have a bigger say in international affairs.

Although Ar?nç noted that Turkey was a peace-seeking country, he added that it would not mean that it would forfeit the rights of its people, with regards to the turbulence between Turkey and Greek Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean over gas and oil resources. While the minister stressed that Turkey was still very much committed to full membership within the EU, he warned that Greek Cypriots assuming the rotating EU presidency, an event that is expected to take place next year, will eventually mean a freeze in negotiations.

“Our relations with the EU date back to 1958. … Accession negotiations have been in progress since 2005,” Ar?nç said, indicating that Turkey would not take anything less than full membership, with reference to the recently repeated suggestions from the EU that Turkey could be granted a “privileged partnership.” “Turkey will be a full member when the process is over,” Ar?nç said and added that the country would tread down the path to accession with patience.


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