Erdoğan seeking ‘quick fix’ with overtures to Israel, Armenia, analyst says

Turkey’s efforts to normalise ties with Armenia and Israel are a tactical shift in diplomacy rather than a value-based commitment to cordial relations, said Aykan Erdemir, senior director of the Turkey Program at the Foundation for the Defence of Democracies (FDD) in Washington D.C.

Turkey and Armenia have appointed special envoys for re-establishing diplomatic relations, broken since the early 1990’s, and re-opening their common border. They held their first meeting in Moscow on Jan. 14. Israeli President Isaac Herzog may visit Ankara next month after Tel Aviv cautiously welcomed Turkey’s calls to repair ties ruptured by regional policy differences and the Palestinian problem.  

“Erdoğan is hoping that his outreach to Israel and Armenia will have a major impact on what he sees as very effective lobby, namely the Armenian lobby and the Jewish lobby, in Washington and the U.S. in general,” Erdemir said in the latest broadcast of Ahval’s ’12 Minutes’ podcast series.

He is hoping that this could be a quick fix to Turkey’s problems, Erdemir said.

The Turkish approach is very naive because it does not take into consideration the complexities of policy making in Washington, he said.

“The Erdoğan government’s tactical shifts, that rest on a very naive and simplistic understanding of how complex foreign and security decisions are taken in the United States will, I think, continue to pose an obstacle to their policy design and implementation,” Erdemir said.

Turkey’s attempts at normalisation with Armenia and Israel are based on President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s models for reaching out to Egypt then to the United Arab Emirates and finally Saudi Arabia, Erdemir said.

Erdemir said Turkey’s diplomatic efforts across the region are based on the following major factors. Firstly, Erdoğan recognised that Turkey was becoming increasingly isolated in the eastern Mediterranean, which created both a diplomatic and military problem. Turkey is also seeking more access to export markets and to attract more investment from abroad, particularly from Gulf countries, after a financial meltdown, Erdemir said.

Ankara believes that the international perception of its conflicts with Armenia and Israel undermine its image and diplomatic sway both in Washington and in Brussels, so it also hopes that attempts at normalisation will serve to bolster Turkey’s soft power and to narrow diplomatic deficits in both capitals, Erdemir said.

Turkey and Armenia made a first attempt at normalising diplomatic relations in 2009, signing protocols in Zurich, Switzerland. The documents, which envisaged establishing formal diplomatic ties, opening the border, and forming a joint commission to study the Armenian Genocide, were not never ratified by the two countries’ parliaments.


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