Erdoğan is resetting foreign policy to cement political gains, columnist says

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is calling for a reset in diplomatic relations with key players in the region to cement his recent political gains, said Burhanettin Duran, head of pro-government Turkish think tank SETA.

Erdoğan’s initiative must be interpreted correctly as it does not mean that Turkey will give up on its national interests, such as cooperation with Russia, Duran said in a column for the Daily Sabah newspaper on Tuesday.

“The new foreign policy agenda is about complementing as opposed to replacing,” he said. “Indeed, the relevant countries will reach their own decisions regarding a potential rapprochement with Turkey based on their strategic calculations.”

As well as initiatives aimed at improving relations with the United States and the European Union, which are the top priority, a rapprochement with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is also expected, Duran said.

“Needless to say, Turkey promotes international cooperation in the eastern Mediterranean to bring together all relevant parties,” he said.

Duran said a plan by Erdoğan to develop cordial relations with U.S. President-elect Joe Biden does not necessarily mean that cooperation with Russia will end, or that Turkey will turn a blind eye to U.S. support for Kurdish militants in Syria.

“Likewise, the idea of closer relations with Israel does not entail signing off on Tel Aviv’s policy on Palestine or jumping on the so-called normalisation bandwagon alongside certain Arab regimes,” he said.

“Great power competition in the post-COVID era and the Biden presidency will present all players with fresh opportunities and challenges,” Duran said. “Turkey is at the heart of key crisis zones and amid changing balances of power.”

Domestically, Erdoğan has said 2021 will be the year of democratic and economic reform. But his administration will likely enact the process gradually and “without losing sight of the fight”, Duran said.

There will be an attempt to reconsolidate the presidential system in Turkey and resetting relations with key global players is another sign of that, he said.