Editor’s Note: The beginning of a new round of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, write Kemal Kirisci and Rob Keane, offers Turkey a chance to renew its once vaunted ‘zero problems with neighbors’ policy, a policy that has come under fire since the beginning of the Arab Spring.
For several years now, Turkey has been a major player in the rapidly changing politics of the Middle East. Recent crises in Egypt, Syria and Iraq have made Turkey a key pillar of stability in a region of constantly shifting ground. While its role in the region was once praised as both positive and constructive, in the course of the last year or so, Turkey’s reputation has suffered.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s grandly touted and formerly praised “zero problems with neighbors” policy has become a source of black humor and has now come to be known as the “zero neighbors without problems” policy. With a new round of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians commencing in Washington, Turkey’s next step remains unclear. Will Turkey live up to the legacy of past policies and play a constructive role in the process, or will it continue with policies that undermine the legacy and spirit of the “zero problems” policy? The latter course of action risks Turkey being seen as a spoiler, left out in the cold at what could be a historic juncture in the politics of the Middle East.
For a very long time, the prime minister has been able to use concerns or constraints from the American government as a way to respond to pressure from his right wing and to say “I’d love to accommodate you on settlements but the Americans have asked me not to.”