At the same time, he touted a spate of Armenian-Turkish agreements that were signed in 2009 and that stipulate establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries.
The documents are yet to be ratified by the MPs of Armenia and Turkey.
The main stumbling block is Turkey’s denial of the Armenian genocide on the territory of the Ottoman Empire in 1915.
Voice of Russia
The interests of Turkey and the USA in the Middle East don't always coincide. That is the opinion of Professor Abdullatif Shener, Turkey’s former Deputy Prime Minister and minister of finance who also has a PhD in economics. The Voice of Russia asked for his views about the current presidential elections in the US and what they could mean for Turkey.
Question: During the Cold War, Turkey needed the West from material, military and political perspectives; but today the situation has changed. Turkey is now seen as a “regional power”, with a strong political standing and military potential. Turkey’s economy is now quite sound. Are Turkey-US relations changing in the light of all this?
Answer: The Cold War is over. It would be pointless to continue today the policy that was formed under Cold War conditions. I believe that, beginning with the 1990s, Turkey needed to create a new foreign policy that would reflect the new situation in the world. However, if we look at what we’ve got today, the situation has not changed that much. Changes have not taken place for a number of reasons. Despite the end of the Cold War, most of the economic, political and military relations that, for many years, were built between Turkey, the USA and the European Union countries are still in place. Turkey is a member of NATO and so relations between Ankara and Washington continue. Military bases are located in Turkey, which were built by the US. While looking at military relations, that has to be taken into account.
However, it does not mean that Turkey needs to continue to cooperate with the West in a unilateral way with one single dimension and direction, as it was in the 1990s. Turkey needs to expand its circle of partners. Russia is one of Turkey’s most important neighbors. It contains a wide range of economic and technological opportunities and Turkey could earn great dividends by cooperating with Russia. One cannot ignore such a neighbor. That’s why, in my opinion, Turkey needs to rethink its one-sided relations with the West.
Question: Although Turkey is a strategic partner of the USA; it occasionally acts according to its own plan, despite the USA’s plans. One example of this was the refusal of the Turkish parliament to allow the deployment of US troops on Turkish soil on the eve of the Iraq invasion in 2003, as well as Ankara’s unwillingness to introduce an embargo against Teheran. How would you describe current Turkish-American relations under these circumstances?
Answer: There are democratic institutions in Turkey; decisions made by those institutions reflect their aims. Turkey’s parliament plays an important role in determining Turkey’s foreign policy. The issues of sending Turkish troops abroad or deploying foreign troops inside the country must, without exception, be approved by parliament. Prior to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 the question of complete cooperation with the USA was discussed in parliament. In 2003 the ruling Justice and Development Party voted in favour of Turkish-American cooperation. Almost all of the ruling party’s supporters approved that draft law. However, despite all the pressure that our respected Prime Minister Erdogan put on the deputies back then, the draft law was not approved by Turkey’s parliament. The opposition voted against it, because of that, and because some of the ruling party deputies abstained, the minimum parliamentary majority required was not reached and so the draft law was rejected.
As far as the development of relations with Iran goes, Turkey went with its deeper interests. Using the flexibility that international relations allow, Turkey itself behaves in a way that does not always appear to be consistent. Nevertheless, I believe that the main element in Turkish foreign policy remains unchanged; the partnership with the USA.
Question: Mitt Romney, at some point, stated that he was ready to strengthen cooperation with Turkey. Is that a signal that Romney is more open to closer cooperation with Turkey than Barack Obama?
Answer: In my opinion, US policy in the Middle East will not change, even if there is a change of president. The president is more likely to change than the policy. At present, Western policy in the Middle East, especially in Syria, is well known. No matter who wins these election, the course of US foreign policy will remain the same. At some point Obama made a statement that he was in close cooperation with Turkey and Israel on the Syrian problem. And one must assume that Obama’s foreign policy in Syria does not differ from that of Romney’s.
In bi-lateral relations between Turkey and America it is very important that Turkey does not forget its own interests. The USA is located far away from the region, while Turkey borders on Syria. It is a very long border of several hundreds of kilometres. The lack of security on that border worries Turkey, which fights against terrorism and suffers from regular terrorist attacks. Due to the absence of control at the border, terrorist groups gain a large territory for their activities. Turkey must take that into account and build its own policy towards Syria accordingly, so that Turkey’s own national interests are observed. In my opinion, Turkey must rethink its policy towards Syria as soon as possible.
A certain state’s interests should not include its neighbour’s problems, unrest and clashes; nobody needs a war. All neighbours would suffer from war. It is important that the neighbour has a steady state system. Turkey is interested in having stable regimes in the leadership of its neighbouring states. The current policy of the Turkish government is somewhat different. But that policy is not fixed, it will change sooner or later. Even this government could give up its current policy towards Syria, if it feels that it’s losing the support of its voters. As far as the USA goes, one must believe that no matter who comes to power in the presidential election, its policy towards Syria will only become tougher. And that is, in no way, in Turkey’s best interests and is worrying.