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Turkey’s Neighborhood:
A New Strategic Landscape?

From the Desk of the Editor  

Diba Nigâr Göksel

In this issue of Turkish Policy Quarterly (TPQ), we examine topical developments in the Caucasus, Central Eurasia, and the Middle East to draw the contours of the emerging strategic configuration in Turkey’s neighborhood. As key countries in the current geostrategic contestations of the region, we focus particularly on Georgia, Afghanistan, Iran, and Syria. We also assess Turkish foreign policy in the broader neighborhood, both to take stock of missed opportunities and identify potential opportunities. The fragile balance between secularism and democracy in Turkey, an important dimension of Turkey’s regional role, is also touched on from various perspectives.

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Interview with Irakli Alasania: The Defense of Georgia  

Irakli Alasania

“Our goal is to not give any pretext for Russians to attack us politically, to attack us via escalation, so I think pragmatism indeed provided us with the options to start a trade relationship with Russia.”

“Combined with its performance, when a country like Georgia has 75-80 percent approval rate for European and NATO aspirations, the EU needs to seriously consider the performance we are showing in moving forward.”

“Our strategic ally Azerbaijan is already a country, together with Turkey, that we have a relationship with, without which we cannot survive.”

“Unfortunately, the previous governments over nine years did not develop institutional decision-making or crisis management. That is what led to their tremendous mistakes.”

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Building Bridges for Security and Peace  

Frans Timmermans

“The Netherlands considers Turkey’s accession to EU to be the logical next step in the development of the bonds between our nations.”

“The Netherlands’ international security strategy is a response to the challenges posed by a rapidly changing, complex, and unpredictable world.”

“The situation at the Turkish-Syrian border and the influx of refugees, constitutes a direct security threat not only for Turkey but also for EU countries.”

“Turkey is a key element of the vital importance that Europe now attaches to the diversification of its energy supplies.”

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Eastern Mediterranean Gas: Potential for Breakthroughs?  

Matthew J. Bryza

“Political and commercial factors will likely drive Jerusalem to select an LNG terminal and a pipeline to Turkey as its preferred mix of gas export options.”

“Incorporating Eastern Mediterranean gas into TANAP and/or TAP would boost the geopolitical significance and enhance the economic attractiveness of the Southern Corridor.”

“Agreement to develop a Cypriot LNG terminal thanks to an Israel-Turkey pipeline would radically improve the political mood between Cyprus and Turkey.”

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The Game-Changers in World Energy  

Mehmet Öğütçü

“By 2030, no country –the U.S., China, or any other country– will be a hegemonic power.”

“Contrary to popular belief, the U.S. is not heavily dependent on the Persian Gulf for oil and has never been so.”

“Thanks to the shale gas ‘revolution,’ the U.S. will be replacing Russia as the world’s natural gas superpower by 2015.”

“Without a sustainable energy mix that includes different forms of energy, the European economy will be less competitive, industry will move abroad, and jobs will inevitably be lost.”

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The Turkish Model in the Arab World  

Jean-Loup Samaan

“Even for Arab thinkers who support the revolution against the Syrian ruler, Turkey’s assertiveness has been progressively seen as ill-advised and perilous, leading to an escalation of the conflict.”

“The late-May demonstrations in Turkey itself, in protest at a planned demolition of Istanbul’s Gezi Park, severely undermined the appeal of the ‘Turkish model’ in the Arab world.”

“Arab intellectuals frequently summarize Erdoğan’s strategy as an effort to ‘Islamize’ the country and to sever it from Europe, following EU’s apparent rebuff of Turkey’s desire to join the Union.”

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France and Turkey: Democracy and Secularism  

Caroline Fourest

“[In France] the simple headscarf is allowed in public, except for public servants or members of Parliament, who need to appear neutral on the basis of the secular state.”

“Exceptions in the name of culture or religion, seriously challenge the principle of equality among citizens.”

“A non-secular country would always favor its majority religion, and eventually make believers of other religions feel as though they had been downgraded to secondary status.”

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What Turkey Can Learn from India’s Central Asia Policy  

Micha'el M. Tanchum

“An examination of how New Delhi’s insistence on strategic autonomy has damaged India’s position in Central Asia will shed light on possible policy outcomes for Turkey in the region if Ankara persists in its present orientation.”

“New Delhi’s lack of strong defense cooperation with Washington means Turkmenistan can exclude India at relatively little cost.”

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Friends and Foes of a U.S.-Iran Nuclear Agreement  

Riccardo Alcaro

“Uranium enrichment (…) is technically the bone of contention between the P5+1 and Iran, because it can serve both civilian and military ends.”

“The only kind of arrangement deemed acceptable by Israel and Saudi Arabia (…) is a punitive deal that puts an end to Iran’s nuclear ambitions.”

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Problems of the Assad-Opposition Dichotomy  

Philip Gamaghelyan

“As the Syrian conflict is routinely framed to be between a dictatorial regime and a fragmented opposition, Western intervention efforts are directed at consolidating the opposition.”

“Reducing the Syrian conflict to a duality of ‘the Assad regime’ versus ‘a particular opposition group’ marginalizes the clear majority of Syrians who are neither of these two.”

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The Nature of Turkey-Iran Relations  

Şafak Baş

“While the Iranian side decreased its revolutionary rhetoric, in Turkey pragmatists with a background in political Islam replaced the laicist elite.”

“Especially Syria has turned into a battleground for Turkey and Iran, where both are fiercely defending their geopolitical goals.”

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Can Turkey De-Isolate Abkhazia?  

Eric R. Eissler

“The diplomatic visits of the Turkish delegation play a role in de-isolating Abkhazia, where de facto officials are unable to participate in political and cultural events on the international stage because of visa denials when traveling on Abkhaz passports.”

“While Georgia and the international community consider the Russian troops stationed in Abkhazia as occupying ‘Georgian territory,’ many Abkhaz and their de facto government views the Russian military presence as ‘providing security’.”

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FES Project Overview: Post-2014 Afghanistan  

“A peaceful stabilization of the conflict in Afghanistan is a key to securing its fragile region from current and future threats.”

“[Stabilization] process has to be based on constructive regional cooperation between Afghanistan and its neighbors.”

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TPQ Seminar: Gender Rights in Turkey  

“Erdoğan’s comments about the inequality of men and women influenced ordinary conservative citizens in a fundamental way.”

“‘Honor’ killings are also committed against LGBT persons by family members, however the related laws to do not cover them.”

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