Event Summary: Turkish Foreign Policy Priorities
On Wednesday, July 15, 2020, the SETA Foundation at Washington, DC hosted a virtual panel of experts to discuss ‘Turkish Foreign Policy Priorities.’ The discussion featured H.E. Cevdet Yilmaz, Deputy Chairman responsible for Foreign Affairs for the AK Party, and Burhanettin Duran, General Coordinator at The SETA Foundation. The panel was moderated by Kilic Kanat, Research Director at SETA DC.
Yilmaz opened the discussion with a praise of the martyrs who had died on this day, four years ago, during the failed coup attempt, as they fought for Turkish democracy against terrorism. He then expanded, reminding viewers of the current administration’s fight against terrorism not just under Gulen, but also terrorist groups like ISIS both in Turkey and beyond in places like Syria and Iraq. He described the Gulenists as a unique organization. On the one hand, they seem peaceful and inclusive, however the reality is that they have infiltrated the state and are therefore a dangerous organization. Gulenists are dangerous not only for Turkey but in all countries in which they operate. They operate under the guise of schools and education and proceed to infiltrate state and security structures in all the countries in which they operate. Yilmaz claimed that countries which protected and supported Gulenists actually harm their allies, and he added that anti-US sentiments increased among the general Turkish population after the coup. He added that this was an indifference to Turkish security, a NATO ally, has created a new atmosphere for Turkish democracy. After eliminating terrorist elements within state structures, the Turkish army and security forces have become much more active.
Duran opened by describing how the Gulenist terrorists threatened Turkish democracy, and that his president, Erdogan, called their people to the streets to save democracy. Similar to Yilmaz, Duran emphasized the aspect of martyrdom in the coup attempt, and praised those who gave their lives for a democratic Turkey. Duran echoed Yilmaz’s statements about an increased hostility in public opinion against the US as a result of the coup attempt. Duran also brought up US’ support of the YPG, a terrorist organization from the Turkish perspective, and added that this, in addition to Gulenist support, a failure of ally-ship on behalf of the US. This failure of support on behalf of the US, Turkey has had to turn to Russia for aid. Duran argued that under the Trump administration, the US has played an increasingly minimal role in the Middle East, leaving behind a void which is filled partially by Turkey. This is not due to Islamism or imperialism, but a necessity to preserve Turkish national interests and continue the fight against terrorism in the region. Duran argued that Turkey has two regional goals: to preserve national security interests, as well as cooperate with western allies.