‘Axis of Türkiye’: Erdoğan’s TRNC-Azerbaijan trip, Fidan’s role
In Lefkoşa, I could not help but notice a local Turk carrying a banner that read: “Three states, one nation.” That message really captured the essence of Erdoğan’s first trip abroad after forming his new Cabinet. The interest that the Turkish leader attracted in Lefkoşa and Baku resembled his popularity in Türkiye. After all, both governments see Erdoğan’s victory as closely related to their fate. That level of association is not unique to the TRNC and Azerbaijan. It is no secret that people in the Balkans, the Caucasus, Central Asia, the Gulf, North Africa and the Middle East followed the May 2023 elections very closely.
One cannot account for the fact that all those people rejoiced with Erdoğan’s victory with reference to identity. During his 21 years in power, Türkiye’s strong leader used foreign policy to transform his country into an active player in the international arena as well as promoted stability, security and peace in its neighborhood. Accordingly, the Turkish government used hard power in Syria, Iraq and Libya, supported Qatar during the blockade, and helped Azerbaijan address the Karabakh question. It proved that it can cooperate with any country that works with it.
At this point, Ankara stands in the way of the next hot conflict in the Balkans. At the same time, Erdoğan gained popularity worldwide by highlighting the need for justice on the floor of the United Nations General Assembly and proposing concrete solutions. In the wake of regionwide normalization, the Turkish president’s leadership (which promotes stability and trust) has caught the interest of the ruling classes. The war in Ukraine and the global uncertainty fueled by Washington’s rivalry with Beijing add to the importance of strong leaders with the potential to promote peace and peaceful solutions. The grain deal and the prisoner exchange demonstrated that leader-to-leader diplomacy works.
Key role of Fidan and Kalın
Having won the May 2023 elections, President Erdoğan will be more actively involved in diplomacy over the next five years. His diplomatic activism, which started in the TRNC and Azerbaijan, will continue over the next months. Erdoğan will complement that activism with a holistic policy that brings together the economy and foreign policy. He formed his new Cabinet and met them for the first time within three days of his reelection. Erdoğan refers to his vision for the “Century of Türkiye” as “the Axis of Türkiye.” It is possible to find the framework for that vision in Erdoğan’s 2023 election statement. The axis isn’t about narrowly defined national interests or domination. Quite the contrary, it refers to inclusiveness, peace, fair distribution and mutual interests. It is about new initiatives and cooperation opportunities.
Türkiye’s new foreign minister, Hakan Fidan, and new intelligence chief Ibrahim Kalın will play a crucial role in putting that vision to practice in strategic and tactical senses. It is no secret that Fidan used intelligence diplomacy to engage with regional governments as part of the normalization process. Combining real-world situations with interpretations of the international system, Fidan will now serve as Erdoğan’s foreign minister to accompany his new global diplomatic activism.
I must disagree with the notion that the country will turn to security-oriented policies under Fidan. Having accumulated in-depth knowledge of many different files as intelligence chief, the new foreign minister will presumably distinguish himself with his strategic and diplomatic skills. In this sense, I expect him to develop new concepts, instruments and initiatives. That is why I believe that Erdoğan will demonstrate his leadership skills in global politics with his trips to the TRNC and Azerbaijan and mark the beginning of a new era when Türkiye will be discussed much more frequently.