The Turks have always found their way to become the center of attention of international politics and global diplomacy in one way or the other. Historically, starting from the Sultans of the Ottoman empire to the modernization of Mustafa Kamal Ataturk after World War 2 and today in the revival of the Turkish empire under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey has always taken a keen interest in the regional and international political developments in its surroundings.
Turkey’s heavy influence in the Middle East cannot be denied. Yet, its role is seen as somewhat critical and controversial. Historically, large parts of the Middle East were considered as Ottoman territory before the loss the dissolution of the empire in 1921 post World War 1. It is eminent that the Turks like to keep a considerable amount of influence in the Middle East especially the regions close to the Turkish borders.
Turkey has adopted an aggressive Syrian policy, merely due to common borders and a constant security threat to its national interests. The Turkish government is very sensitive and cautious on the Kurd issue. It opposes Kurd nationalist views and any kind of Kurd self-autonomy in the region. Erdogan’s government has categorically declared PKK, YPG and other similar Kurd political forces and armed militias as enemies of the Turkish nation and even conducted military operations inside Syria.
Read more: ‘Brothers in arms’: Pakistan, Turkey jointly inaugurate new homes for war victims in Idlib, Syria
ISIS, Al-Nusra and Al-Qaeda’s presence in Syria is also a threat to the Turkish national interests. Turkey has deployed heavy troops on the Syrian border and even built a 115-kilometer-long buffer zone in Northern Syria in August 2019. Despite having a hostile relationship with Syria’s Bashar-Al-Assad, Turkey has achieved its strategic and diplomatic goals in the region by securing it’s national and regional interests.
Relations with Israel
Previously Turkey had a love and hate relation with Israel. In 2000’s both the countries’ bilateral relations drastically deteriorated after Gaza bombings, describing Israeli policy in the Gaza Strip as “state-sponsored terrorism”. All diplomatic operations are suspended between the two countries. Over the years Erdogan has distanced himself from the Israeli leadership and vocally supports the Palestinians for their right of freedom.
Almost a war with Russia
Turkish government took an audacious step when they shot down a Russia Su-024 back in 2015. Turkey claimed the Russian jet violated Turkish airspace up to a depth of 2.19 kilometer. The relations between both the countries came to a breaking point, to the extent that a limited war between Turkish armed forces and Russian forces was seen around the corner, but both nations decided not to engage in any kind of conflict after an hour of telephonic conversation between both countries’ foreign ministers. Another diplomatic victory of Turkey after indulging its in such a hostile situation.
Read more: Turkey sanctions over Russian arms: A ‘very real’ risk?
Role in Nagorno-Karabakh conflict
In the ongoing conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia, Turkey is in full support of their Azerbaijani allies. There were also reports of Turkey using Syrian rebels to fight the Arminian forces.
Read more: WATCH: Pakistan, Turkey flags fly high on streets of battle-hardened Azerbaijan
According to other reports, Armenia accused Turkey of shooting down an Armenian Su-25, yet Turkey denies any such incident. Turkey is seen openly criticizing Armenian actions in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. It was not surprising to see Turkey stepping in that quick in the conflict as it did. On the other hand, Russia seems to support Armenia, countering Turkish strategy.
A Muslim block
Back in 2019 a Muslim Block was being formulated with Turkey playing a key role in it. Leadership of Turkey, Malaysia and Pakistan conducted joint meetings discussing major issues faced by Muslims all around the world including the phenomenon of Islamophobia.
Read more: PM Imran Khan set to raise his voice for occupied Kashmir once again at 75th UNGA
Later during the UNGA speech, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the Kashmir conflict a “burning issue”. He also said “Steps taken following the abolition of the special status of [occupied] Jammu and Kashmir further complicated the problem. We are in favor of solving this issue through dialogue within the framework of the UN resolutions and especially in line with the expectations of the people of Kashmir.”
Relations with Europe
The Treaty of Lausanne is about to expire in 2023. Geo-political analysts are raising their concerns on what the Turkish leadership might do after the treaty expires. Will Turkey revive its Ottoman empire’s legacy? or will Turkey further expand its influence to achieve regional or even global strategic dominance? And in this course of action is there any threat to the European nations? These are the crucial questions that are roaming European minds with grave concern and worry.
Dispute over Cyprus
Turkey has an ongoing dispute with Greece on the issue of Cyprus. In 1974, the Turkish invasion of Cyprus led to the independence of The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Since then, the Turkish government has taken a firm stand on the issue. Turkey opposes any kind of Greek dominance over the island of Cyprus and wants to revive its Turkish superiority in the region.
Bitter relations with France
French President’s prejudice against Islam and Muslims has raised many questions of the security of the Muslim community in France. Recently, French president Emmanuel Macron has seemingly been talking in favor of freedom of speech and freedom of expression while referring to Charlie Hebdo’s offensive cartoons of prophet Muhammad PBUH.
Tensions have sparked all over the Muslim world protesting against France. Turkey came into media’s spotlight when President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that French president Emmanuel Macron should undergo ‘mental checks‘ after his offensive statements about Islam, calling it a religion ‘in crisis’. Both the leaders seem willing to take on this fight, as Turkish president called on Turks to boycott French products amid an escalating dispute over Paris’ support for the right to caricature Prophet Muhammad.
Read more: Turkey accuses French President Macron of sowing Islamophobia
It is noteworthy that this is not the first time French and Turkish leadership have gone head to head against each other. Previously, France has also opposed Turkish support to Azerbaijan calling Turkish leader’s “reckless and dangerous”. In addition, tensions between both the countries further went downhill when Macron and Erdogan exchanged harsh statements on the issue of Cyprus and earlier on the role in the Libyan civil war.
Turkey as a Muslim reformist
Today the Republic of Turkey under the leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdogan is somewhat seen as a Muslim reformist among the Muslims of the world. People seem to idealize the Turkish nation as a hope of reviving the lost golden period of Muslims. It restores the concept of Ummah and Khilafat in people’s minds. In addition to this, the economic prosperity and welfare of the Turkish nation is also one of the main reasons Muslims fancy Turkey. Erdogan’s process of making Turkey the ideal Muslim reformist is gradually changing the internal and external structure of the Turkish state and society, making Turkey a key powerful regional and international player in global diplomacy and international politics.
The author is a master’s student from the Mass Communication Department of National University of Modern Languages Islamabad campus. He often writes on international developments and has a particular focus on Af-Pak affairs. The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space