9 Nisan 2011 Cumartesi

Turkey's Libya Stance Reflects Pursuit of Wider Influence

Guy TAYLOR         World Politics Review

Turkey's evolving response to the Libyan crisis is just the "latest indication of its goal to be a power broker on the world stage," the Associated Press reported earlier this week.

Henri Barkey, a visiting scholar in the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, says the Turkish government has "always thought that in the past, the Turks have punched well below their weight."

"Now, with the Turkish economy doing very well, as the 16th-largest economy in the world . . . Turkey is much more able to play an international role, especially in the Caucusus and the Middle East, but also beyond the region," Barkey told Trend Lines this morning.

The combination of a strong economy and a government that is both democratically elected while also maintaining "Muslim sensitivities" has made Turkey a very important player, he said.

Barkey, who is also member of the international relations department at Lehigh University, points to three core factors motivating Turkey's desire for a wider geopolitical role. First, Turkey's strong economy fuels the need to grow trade relationships with other countries, specifically export markets. Second, its size, strategic location, history and cultural roots provide it with a particular set of attributes that drive its natural rise. Third, the present leaders have a genuine desire, partly out of personal ambition and partly out of patriotism, to make Turkey into a global player.

There have been setbacks, most notably the slowness with which the Turkey-European Union relationship has developed. While hopes for Turkey's EU accession were high in the early part of the past decade, the process has yet to bear real fruit.

"It's a situation where you have a country that wants to get into the EU, and the club has certain demands," says Barkey, adding that "both the Europeans and the Turks have, until recently, been very unrealistic in their discourse about the timeframe for when Turkey will get in."

Both have given the impression that accession would be a 10-year affair, when in fact it is a much longer process. One major obstacle is the "Kurdish problem," said Barkey, referring to the Turkish government's relationship with Turkey's Kurdish minority, which makes up about 18 percent of the country's population of 78 million people.

While he expressed confidence that the tensions between the government and the Kurdish population will be resolved, Barkey said that "it will take time."

As for a realistic timeframe for Turkish EU membership, the process should be expected to take "20, 25 or maybe 30 years," he said.

Last summer, Barkey authored this analysis for the Carnegie Endowment on the Turkish government's approach to the Kurdish population.


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