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Turkey has been charged with changing axis for a while, but the question is, whose axis is shifting? Turkey’s confidence is rising as it gains in respect due to its recent initiatives. Only in foreign policy is there really a change of direction: it is apparent that Turkey, from now on, will act more autonomously. If necessary, it will define its interests separately from its traditional allies. Turkey will be less open than it was in the past to unilateral requests from the European Union and US. In short, Turkey will not now do whatever it’s asked to do.
That has to do with the changing dynamics of international politics rather than any animosity to the West. It is time to recall a basic, perhaps banal, fact of global politics: the cold war ended 20 years ago and the nature of Turkey’s role as alliance partner has clearly changed.
Those who accuse Turkey of changing axis confuse the transformation of global politics with that of values and (ideological) trends. And this is where the question of axis shift is perceived as a threat and there is a ringing of alarm bells. But Turkey is simply continuing the broad trends and values begun in 1839 during the period of the Tanzimat reforms.
There is no doubt that Turkey is in transition: problems are on the way to being resolved. Turkey is reconciling itself with its history, albeit slowly, and a process of normalisation is underway, particularly with our neighbours — including Armenia. The country is also democratising and human rights are respected more. That doesn’t mean everything is perfect. But the general direction is towards a more democratised and pluralist Turkey in domestic and external politics.
Does proposing democratisation as a remedy for the Kurdish problem signify an axis change? Or taking steps to normalise relations with Armenia, or paying an official visit to Northern Iraq to end the traditional enmity with Kurdistan? Or supporting a resolution of the Cyprus problem on the basis of UN parameters, or making proposals to solve problems in the Aegean? You may answer that Turkey has shifted axis by deepening its relations with the Middle East and Arab world. But you could say the same of France: President Sarkozy has been trying to solve Syria’s problems with Israel even though France is thousands of miles from these countries.
Why shouldn’t Turkey play a positive role in resolving the troubles in our own neighbourhood, the Middle East, and develop relations and earn money from trade, tourism and investment with these countries with which we have close cultural and historical ties?
Some in Turkey echo the charge of axis shift. Could this be somehow related to the inferiority complex that we feel vis-à-vis the West, as if the ‘western-ness’ of our literati could be called into question by our good relations with the East. Such fears create obstacles for those interested in understanding the real transformation taking place in Turkey.
Some still believe the Justice and Development (AK) Party and its so-called hidden Islamist agenda is estranging us from the EU and transforming Turkey into an Islamic country. Others, particularly those looking at Turkey from the outside, are concerned whey they see it make insightful points, even though in an imperfect and sometimes incorrect style. May be they are worried that Turkey is acting in line with the principles of the UN Charter, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, Geneva Convention and human rights documents. Rather than changing axis, Turkey is becoming more "western" with each passing day. The only difference is its rising confidence, the appropriate policies that it pursues, and increased respect it is winning for its initiatives. So whose axis is shifting? The answer, unfortunately, is Europe’s, particularly the European Union. The EU is moving away from its own values, and sacrificing its basic principles because of unfounded fears, and forgetting its promises when it comes to Turkey.
Twenty years after the end of the cold war, with the transformation of world politics, Turkey is becoming more aware of its potential as a force for stability and peace in its own region, and an actor to be reckoned with in world politics. I can understand that makes some people uneasy, but I believe those who are interested in expanding zones of stability and resolving problems through peaceful means should recognise that Turkey has a vision that the our region needs.