Turkish former diplomats and political analysts discussed the changes in Turkish foreign policy and the relationship between Turkey and the Arab countries.

This was at the third panel of the fourth Abu Dhabi Strategic Debate, titled “Fires and Flames in the Middle East: Turkey: A Rebirth or a Decline of a Nation?”. The participants were: Ersat Hurmuzlu, former senior advisor to Turkish president for Middle East affairs, His Excellency Unal Cevikoz, former Turkish diplomat and columnist, Muhammed Zahid Gul, head of Sarkiyat research center in Istanbul, and Cengiz Candar, professor and columnist for “Al Monitor”.

Mr. Hurmuzlu found that the Turkish-Khaleeji dialogue stopped because of the Turkish policies in the wake of the “Arab Spring”; however, he disclaimed the assumption that Ankara was seeking an expansion project based on what has come to be referred to as “the new Ottoman Empire”.

Dr. Candar agreed with Hurmuzlu that the crises in the region led to confusion in Turkish foreign policy; however, he ascertained that this policy carried a mixture of nationalism and Islamic traditionalism.

On the other hand, H.E. Cevikoz believed that the changes in Turkish foreign policy were due to employing this policy for internal purposes related to elections in the country, especially considering the decision-making process in Turkey is carried out within the framework of the party, since this party lost its trust in the country’s institutions. H.E. added that the other reason behind the change in Turkey’s foreign policy is Ankara straying away from objectivity during the past few years.

Cevikoz also said that despite what appears to be rapprochement between Turkey on one side, and Russia and Iran on the other, it is nothing more than a tactical agreement imposed by the conditions of the crises in the region. However, he stressed that Turkey is still seeking a strategic relationship with the West.

Gul said there is a gap in understanding between Turkey and the Arab world, and held Arab entities supported by Qatar inside Turkey responsible for presenting a skewed view of the Arab reality to the Turkish decision-maker.

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