There has been a revival in Turkey’s relation with Africa after 1998. Initially this revival came as a passive attempt, but after 2005 it became an offensive interest in developing relations with the continent. The recent Turkey-Africa Cooperation Summit marks the latest stage in Turkey’s keen interest in developing relations with Africa, and should be seen as a turning point if it is followed with concrete projects in political and economic fields. The key challenge, however, lies in the mutual lack of knowledge and familiarity between the two regions, coupled with general uncertainty regarding how to further relations.
Perhaps the most consequential and drastic decision in Turkish foreign policy in recent months was to engage in direct negotiations with Kurdish Regional Government in northern Iraq. This is significant because, since the onset of Iraq War in 2003, Turkey has sought to ignore or marginalize Iraqi Kurds, and has refrained from all acts that could be viewed as concessions or de facto recognition. Although the Iraqi Kurdish leadership has received red-carpet ceremony in Ankara in the1990s, Turkish foreign policy toward northern Iraq, since the war, has been stymied by anxiety and emotional rhetoric. Indeed, the fear of Iraq’s disintegration and the rise of an independent Kurdish enclave in the north, inspiring or even assisting separatist sentiments in Turkey, have appeared to cloud the possibility of rational evaluation of the pros and cons of policy alternatives. As a result, the policy of projecting illegitimacy to the Kurdish Regional Government has cost Turkey a significant loss of clout not only in northern Iraq but also in the wider Iraqi political affairs, as Kurds have come to occupy significant positions in the central government as well.
Turkish policymakers exhibit a high degree of self-confidence and willingness to pursue intensive diplomatic initiatives in the Middle East. Turkey pursues a multi-dimensional policy line to foster peace and stability in the region, and has already enjoyed some degree of success. Turkish policymakers seek to utilize Turkey’s good relations with Syria and Israel to wield an influence on these countries to facilitate Israeli-Syrian negotiations. The increasing level of trust to Turkey’s new image of civil-economic power in the Middle East and the U.S. support for Turkey’s potential contribution to chronic problems of the region have made Turkey a potential mediator in the decades-long Syrian-Israeli conflict.