At the end of last month, the alliance of the six opposition parties in Turkey announced the document of common policies that it will pursue if it wins the elections expected to be held in mid-May.
While the bulk of this document was devoted to domestic issues, the document singled out an item for its vision of foreign policy, national security and combating terrorism.
In view of the growing and influential external role of Turkey in many regional and international issues in light of its military involvement in a number of conflicts surrounding it, such as Syria and Libya, and the delicate balance with which it manages its position in the Russian-Ukrainian war, as well as its intertwined relations with Russia and the West, the future of Turkey's external role after The election is receiving wide attention in regional and international capitals.
The opposition coalition built part of its political discourse on opposing most of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's foreign policies, from Syria and the region to strained relations with the West and strengthening partnership with Russia and others.
However, the opposition's idealistic approach to reforming foreign relations seems unrealistic compared to the circumstances that govern these relations, and it did not present a clear and practical vision to achieve it on the ground.
It can be noted that this vision differs from Erdogan's policy on some issues, such as the position on the West, but it does not radically change foreign policies on issues of a national dimension, such as the conflict with Greece, the Cyprus issue, and Turkey's relations with the Turkish world in Central Asia and the South Caucasus.
In this article, I discuss the vision of the six-party alliance for foreign policy in 6 main files affecting Turkey, which are the fight against terrorism, Syria, regional policies, relations with the West and Russia, and the position on the Russian-Ukrainian war.
First: Security and Combating Terrorism:
Given the influential role of the security and counter-terrorism factor in shaping Turkish foreign policy, especially in the last decade, there is no significant change in principle in the opposition's vision of the policy adopted by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in this matter.
The six-party alliance promised to continue fighting all terrorist organizations by using force without interruption, while giving priority to drying up the sources of terrorism, in reference to the alliance's intention to continue the Turkish approach that has been in place for years in combating the PKK through military operations in northern Iraq.
It is noteworthy, however, that the coalition's joint policies document did not explicitly address the position on the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) and how to deal with it.
It seems that ignoring this issue is due to the opposition's keenness to avoid adopting a strong and clear rhetoric in the fight against terrorism that would alienate the voters of the Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party, whose votes the opposition desperately needs, especially in the presidential elections.
It is also due to the fact that this issue had a very negative impact on the dynamic of relations between Turkey and the United States in the past years, and therefore avoiding going into it relieves the coalition of the burden of adopting a discourse that implicitly acknowledges the correctness of Erdogan's policies in dealing with this issue and the threat posed by American support for the units. Kurdish on Turkish national security.
The Syrian war had major repercussions for Turkey in the areas of security, domestic politics, economy and relations with abroad.
The Turkish opposition parties generally focused part of their anti-Erdogan rhetoric on criticizing his policies in Syria, but the vision put forward by the six-party alliance regarding Syria ignored defining a clear position on the two files most important to Turkey, which are the future of the Turkish military presence in northern Syria and the Kurdish People's Protection Units.
The Coalition promised to conduct an intensive dialogue with all relevant parties representing the various segments of the Syrian people and the regime in Damascus, with the exception of terrorist groups, in order to establish a lasting peace within the framework of United Nations resolutions.
While Damascus mortgages any reconciliation with Ankara to the withdrawal of its forces from Syria, the opposition coalition will not be able to bring about a radical change in Turkish policy in Syria without making clear and difficult commitments to withdraw Turkish forces.
Also, the association of the Turkish military presence in Syria with Turkish national security calculations in the first place makes it difficult for the opposition to ignore these calculations in formulating a new policy on Syria.
It is clear that the vision of the six-party alliance for the Syrian file and the fight against terrorism was designed in some respects to take into account the internal conditions and the electoral need for the Kurdish vote.
Erdogan's balanced approach to the war is the subject of a rare internal consensus between the government and the opposition, and it also contributed to giving credibility among the Turks to the leadership role of Erdogan, who succeeded, through his close relations with Putin and Zelensky, in concluding the grain agreement and trying to play a mediating role to end the war.
Third: regional politics
The opposition coalition promised to put an end to practices based on internal calculations and ideological approaches in foreign policy and to strengthen relations with the countries of the region.
This point is important in light of the fact that Turkish regional policies during the past decade were designed in some aspects on the basis of the ideological approach of the Justice and Development Party and its conservative orientations, which are believed to be a reason for Ankara's support for the Arab transformations that led to the rise of political Islam in the region after 2011.
Although this belief seems partially realistic, the growth of the Turkish regional role after that period was based on two main aspects, namely the dangerous security vacuum left by conflicts in neighboring countries on Turkey's vital interests, and its desire to become a major player in reshaping the surrounding regional geopolitics. with it.
However, in light of the turn that Erdogan made in regional politics during the last two years by reforming relations with the active forces in the region, which were in some respects a result of the changes that occurred in the region due to the decline of the political Islam movement, the vision of the opposition alliance for regional politics does not It clearly contradicts Erdogan's current orientations.
Fourth: the relationship with the West
The opposition coalition pledged to revitalize the partnership with the West by taking some ambitious initiatives, such as Turkey's reinstatement of the F-35 fighter jet manufacturing project with the United States, and the resumption of negotiations to join the European Union.
In fact, this issue constitutes the cornerstone of Turkish foreign policy.
During the last years of Erdogan's rule, Turkey's relations with the West reached very low levels due to a group of factors, on top of which is the new geopolitical identity that Erdogan drew for his country as a balancing force between East and West and the tendency for independence in foreign policy from the West, as well as differences in issues of security and terrorism and the Western position. From the Turkish internal transformations after the failed military coup attempt in 2016.
Although Erdogan's potential loss in the elections can address the factor represented by him personally as one of the causes of tensions with the West, the other main factors causing tensions will remain, such as the Greek file, the US military presence in it, the Cyprus issue, and the difficult condition imposed by Washington on Ankara to return it to the F-fighter project. 35- It is its abandonment of the Russian S-400 system.
The opposition did not provide a clear vision of how it would deal with these issues, with the exception of an important shift from Erdogan's policy on the Cyprus issue, as the opposition document did not adopt the two-state solution that Erdogan had adopted in recent years, and instead spoke of a permanent and comprehensive solution to the Cyprus issue.
Fifth: the relationship with Russia
The opposition promised to strengthen relations with Moscow through understanding between equals, and through balanced and constructive dialogue at the institutional level.
The relationship with Russia constitutes one of the prominent complications in Turkish foreign policy, in addition to being a direct reflection of the deterioration of Turkey's relations with the West during the Erdogan era.
While Erdogan approaches the relationship with Moscow from the perspective of the need to balance Turkey's interests between Russia and the West, the opposition has not presented a clear vision of how to formulate a foreign policy that works to restore Turkey's geopolitical identity as part of the West, while at the same time contributing to maintaining a friendly relationship with Russia.
Since the opposition realizes that reforming relations with the West will not only be by pursuing dialogue as a way to resolve differences with it on direct issues, but also by shifting towards adopting a hard-line approach in the relationship with Russia, it avoids making clear commitments to the West in this regard, just as it avoided adopting promises that would push Moscow to treat Turkey as an adversary rather than a competitive partner.
The most prominent shift in the foreign policy of the opposition from Erdogan's policy lies in the pledge to build relations with Russia and the United States on institutional foundations, which is understood as abandoning Erdogan's approach, which relied more on the personal relations he established with Putin and American presidents in formulating foreign relations with Moscow and Washington. .
In the accelerating dynamism of the external changes affecting Turkey, the absence of the element of close relations at the level of leaders may not be sufficiently helpful for Turkey to quickly adapt to it.
Sixth: The Russian-Ukrainian War
It is interesting that defining the position on this war, which is the largest international issue at the present time and greatly affects Turkey, was prominently absent from the joint policies document of the opposition coalition.
This absence reflects an implicit desire of the six-party alliance to maintain a balanced approach between Russia and Ukraine, given its importance in reducing the repercussions of the war on Turkey and its vital interests with Russia and the West.
Erdogan's balanced approach to the war was the subject of a rare internal consensus between the government and the opposition, and it also contributed to giving credibility among the Turks to the leadership role of Erdogan, who succeeded through his close relations with Putin and Zelensky in concluding the grain agreement and trying to play a mediating role to end the war.
The activation of the Montreux Treaty also helped reduce the militarization of the situation in the Black Sea region, which is vital for Turkey.
It seems that the reason for ignoring the opposition's view of this issue is due to Erdogan's remarkable success in managing Turkey's position on it.
Finally, in light of the opposition's inability to formulate a foreign policy that could compete with Erdogan's policy, its foreign policy project seemed modest and reflects its acknowledgment of the difficulty of presenting an alternative and convincing approach that fits effectively with the international situation surrounding Turkey.