On the 19th of March, the lecture guest of RSR was the Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey in Estonia, Hayriye Kumaşcıoğlu with a lecture titled “Turkish Foreign Policy, Enterprising and Humanitarian Diplomacy”.
Ambassador underlined that Turkey is situated at a unique geography that provides her with multiple neighbourhoods, including Europe, Middle East, Caucasia and Central Asia. This creates opportunities as well as challenges for Turkey. She said that being at the centre of challenges affecting Euro-Atlantic security, Turkey pursues an active and enterprising foreign policy in order to control the negative trends that affect its stability.
Ambassador emphasised that one of the top priorities of Turkish foreign policy is to further strengthen her existing strategic relations with European and Transatlantic political and security structures, first and foremost with NATO and the EU.
She said full membership to the EU is a strategic priority for Turkey. The Turkish path to the European Union has been one of the longest, beginning in 1963 with the Ankara Treaty. Turkey has been conducting accession negotiations since 2005. Up until this time, 16 chapters out of 35 have been opened. Ambassador pointed out that Turkey would not accept any other form of relationship and noted that the accession negotiations should be conducted and concluded as a technical process without being subjected to the political obstacles so that EU can use its transformative power in bringing Turkey up to the required standards. Opening of the relevant chapters that are politically blocked will be more constructive than criticism.
Ambassador believes that the EU and Turkey need each other in order to overcome the challenges that we face. In this regard, she underlined the wide range of areas of cooperation between Turkey and the EU and put a special emphasis on the success of 18 March Agreement. According to the Ambassador Turkey has done her part of the deal and expects the EU to fulfil its commitments such as visa liberalization for Turkish citizens and updating the Customs Union. Currently Turkey is the fifth biggest trading partner of the EU and updating Customs Union will be a win-win situation for both Turkey and the EU.
She also told that Turkey’s membership to the EU would be one of the most challenging of all accession processes, but it will also be the most beneficial by bringing additional value to the EU.
In her presentation, Ambassador focused also on NATO as a foreign policy priority of Turkey. She described NATO as the cornerstone of Turkey's defence and security policy and underlined that Turkey has been a strong and reliable NATO member since 1952. Having the second largest army in the Alliance, Turkey is a strong NATO contributor. As an answer to a question she underlined that Turkey has no intention to leave NATO.
She talked about Middle East within the framework of crisis management and stressed that Turkey follows the developments in the Middle East with a focus on national security since the conflicts in the Middle East have been directly affecting Turkey. Turkey has 911 km border with Syria. A stable Syria is one of the goals of Turkey’s foreign policy in the Middle East and Turkey supports Syria’s territorial integrity as well as its political unity. The same also applies to Iraq.Turkey is determined to fight against all terrorist organizations operating in Syria. DEAS and PYD/YPG which is the Syrian branch of PKK terrorist organization constitute serious threat to national security of Turkey.
Turkish-US relations was also mentioned. Ambassador pointed out Turkey and the US have been close allies and partners for more than sixty years and this is a resilient relationship. Turkey expects the US to disengage completely from terrorist PYD/YPG in Syria. She believes that outstanding issues with the US could be resolved through dialogue.
Turkey shares a long history and a vast geography with Russia. Because of the Syrian conflict, Russia is now a neighbour in the south as well as in the North. Turkish-Russian relations are strong in the fields of economy and trade, energy and tourism. Both sides are also cooperating on the Syrian issue. On the other hand, Turkey has different views on many issues such us Ukraine, Crimea and Georgia.
Another important topic of Turkish Foreign Policy is Cyprus issue. Ambassador mentioned that the current problems dated back to 1960’s not 1974. 2014 was a milestone in the long process of reunification process but the opportunity is lost due to the rejection of UN sponsored Annan Plan by the Greek Cypriot side. Every settlement process has failed for the same reason over the last 50 years. The Greek Cypriots are not willing to share power with the Turkish Cypriots.
Turkey’s European prospects is not limited to the EU. Turkey attaches importance to strengthening ties with the Balkans. Southern Caucasus is also a regional interest, as is the Central-Asia region.
Africa has also an important place in Turkish foreign policy. Currently, there are 41 embassies on the continent. Turkish diplomatic outreach towards Africa, the Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean makes Turkey the 5th largest global diplomatic network all over the world.
Ambassador also noted that humanitarian diplomacy is the second pillar of Turkish Foreign Policy. According to the statistics, Turkey is the leading country with its humanitarian aid of 8.07 billion USD. This also brings us back to the Syrian crisis, as Turkey is the largest refugee hosting country. Currently Turkey hosts 4.7 million refugees, 3.6 million of which are Syrian. Among Syrians 1 million are children.