Global Conversations

08/04/2016 - Ilter Turan - Ambivalent Neighbors: Turkey and the Middle East

Ambivalent Neighbors: Turkey and the Middle East.

The 8th of April Global Governance first and second year students attended a Global Conversation with professor Ilter Turan.
The distinguish guest is currently a Political Science professor in International Relations at Istanbul Bilgi University, where he has served as its president through 1998 – 2001. He serves on the board of several foundations and corporations.  He is widely published in English and Turkish on Comparative Politics, Turkish politics and foreign policy. His recent writings have been on the politics of water, the Turkish parliament and Turkish political parties.
During the conversation Dr. Turan has focuses his attention on the ambivalence of Turkey in the political scenario thanks to its strategic position between two continents: Europe and the Middle East, highlighting the shift from a Europhile to a Middle-Eastern politic.
“Turkey is neither here nor there”. This ambivalent face of its politic helped it a lot in many occasions and tends to characterize the relationship with Turkey and the Middle East. As history shows us, at the beginning, Turkey was not included in Southern Europe because of its belonging to the Ottoman Empire. Instead, during the second half of the 19 Century, some communities within the Ottoman Empire began to ask for independence, the fist one of those was Greece that in 1829 became independent from the Ottoman Empire. But, especially after the First World War the Ottoman Empire was triggered out by storms of nationalism and independence and, with the Paris Treaty, the Ottoman Empire ended. Countries like Greece and Egypt in the name of the new concept of nation were involved in independence struggles against the British Empire. Instead, other countries such as Iran, received a European influence from Turkish experience.
During the Second World War the political path of Middle East all those countries became nominally independent. The British and France Empire gave up their occupations and so all those countries gain independence from their colonial empires. For instance, when the war came the colonial powers needs to get reed of colonies because they were too expensive. After the war, one by one Middle Eastern Countries began to have military intervention and from that moment on they began to be ruled by traditional rulers that were corrupted and inefficient.
Since Turkey was seen as a former ex colonial country and became a member of NATO the relationship with Middle Eastern Countries became cold. In the 80s Turkish leaders began an economic policy towards autarky, that became a necessity after the oil crisis of 1973. The necessity to import caused by the crisis, improved the relationships with neighboring countries. As a consequence of this situation, the outcome of the D8, in 1978, was the built of forms of cooperations within Islamic Countries.
In 2002, Turkey keep improving regional and international relations and expanded its economic relations with the Middle east. Relations with Western Countries freeze since the refusal of the county to became a passage in order to enter in Iraq for US army in 2003. 
2010 was the turning point in the relations with neighboring countries thanks to the Israel-Syria agreement and to the support of Turkey of the Muslim Brothers government, within a year the country was fighting Syrians, Egyptians and began to have difficult relations also with Iraq, thus ending up from being regional leader to a regional problem. Turkey lost his regional power because it was not able to cope with the Arab spring.
Today, Turkey is not strong enough to be a leading model. Because of the declining of the relationships with the middle east, it is trying to build a bridge with the West in particular with the European Union that would like to join.
This meeting was very interesting and enlightening in order to clarify the ambivalent situation of Turkey for all Global Governance students. We thank a lot Professor Turan for coming and spending his time with us in order to make clearness in the political situation.

Martina Miracapillo and Sara Massimi.