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Turkey’s regional power aspirations

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The rise to power of the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP) in 2002 has prompted the emergence of a new Turkish foreign policy doctrine. Its principles emphasise a policy of “zero problems with neighbours”, proactive diplomacy, as well as a more autonomous foreign policy.

There have been many debates on Turkey’s foreign policy activism during the last decade as well as on its regional ambitions. Some experts view Turkey as an emerging mid-rank power or regional leader, whereas for others Turkey remains a less central player.

In practice, the new doctrine translated into efforts to improve bilateral relations with neighbours, conduct mediation initiatives in the region and, in particular, re-engagement with the Middle East and Arab countries. A distancing from Turkey’s traditional Western allies led to perceptions of a “shift of axis” from the west.

Recently however, the Arab uprisings have challenged Turkey’s “zero problems with neighbours” policy and tested its capacity to deal with regional instability alone. This has motivated a redefinition of Turkey’s foreign policy principles, as well as a rediscovery of its Western allies.

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