The elephant in the room and Turkish foreign policy

Özdem Sanberk has been using the phrase "elephant in the room" on television profusely these past few days. It is being used to refer to the "Karabakh issue" in the negotiations being held between Armenia and Turkey. Both sides know and see the problem, but for some reason, they just can't talk about it or put it into writing.

Let's use the phrase "elephant in the room" to refer to the high performance of Turkish foreign policy in the last eight years.
After 10 "wasted years," Turkish foreign policy began to quickly adapt to the dynamic post-Cold War period. Over the last eight years, Turkey has started to use its own power and has begun to have an influence on both places near and far from it.

The "Turkish point of view" and "Turkey's weight" are being felt in every part of the region. Everyone from America to Africa is aware and is writing about or talking about Turkey's stronger presence. Why is it that the only people who can't see the elephant in the room are people in Turkey?

You can ignore it as much as you want, but it is what it is. The only question that comes to their minds is whether there is a shift of axis. They realize that there is some commotion going on. In fact, they realize that it's quite profound, but they can't grasp exactly what it is. Because they cannot stop thinking with Cold War parameters, they also cannot stop searching for a "fixed axis."

We can't expect those who are here in body but in Europe and America in spirit to understand what has been happening in Turkish foreign policy for the last eight years. Thank God for the handbook they have, which says it is because of the religious people who came to power. After all, the deterioration in relations with Israel and the resistance to demands to impose sanctions on Iran are evidence of this.

What an analysis, isn't it? When the "focus" of the events is wrong, the "picture" becomes limited and misleading as well. This is where the problem lies. What can be an alternative to the current foreign policy? Waiting around for instructions from Washington as was the case before by saying we have "strategic relations" with America? Turning our back on everyone else, saying: "Our goal is Europe; the rest does not concern us?"

They say, look the "normalization process" with Armenia is locked now too. But why? Shouldn't writers who analyze foreign policy also write about why the process has been blocked and what factors caused it? But they don't write about that part.

First let me note that the process is not in deadlock the "ultimate sense." Problems have occurred in the past before, such as when there were demands to put the word "precondition" into the protocols and when a "signature crisis" took place in Zurich. Each time the problem was resolved through a visit, a letter or a meeting and the process continued. We need to wait and see what developments take place after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visits Ankara next month. If the "normalization process" enters a deadlock in the ultimate sense, it won't be because of Ankara or Yerevan, it will be because of Moscow.

Turkish diplomacy is not to blame for the failure of the normalization process. It is a result of the "narrow horizon" in Yerevan and the failure of Russia to encourage Armenians. If Turkey is expected to pursue "normalization with Armenia" at the expense of Azerbaijan, that will not happen. Turkish foreign policy does not need that kind of "achievement." As for the intellectuals who reckon that we need to accept "genocide" allegations, Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan has already thanked them when he announced that they were "freezing the approval process."

It's truly striking that those who castigate Turkey do not say a single word to officials in other capitals who are actually blocking the "process." Those who write on foreign policy in Turkey have run into walls many times. But they have not learned any lessons. Many of them have not asked themselves, "Why was I wrong?" But since this country has a poor "memory and archive," they have been able to more or less get back up. Otherwise, I don't think they could find a single Western or Eastern foreign affairs minister who would describe Turkey's foreign policy as a "failure."

That said, the elephant continues to sit in the room.

01 May 2010, Saturday
GÜRKAN ZENGİN