Turkey’s geographical location, between Europe on the one side and the Middle Eastern on the other, positions the nation at the cross roads of both east and west. Turkey holds the distinction of being the only Muslim nation with a viable democracy, a member of NATO, and one that maintains a “strategic partnership” with the U.S. Turkey is also unique in the Muslim world in its quest to join the European Union. At the same time, the Turkish Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdogan, and a majority in the administration are Muslims who observe “conservative faith-based values.” In order to qualify for EU membership, Turkey must practice policies such as human rights and government accountability. With this in mind, Turkey is being very careful with its Kurdish problem, seeking to form policies that honor Kurdish cultural rights and the “Kurdish identity.” Turkey’s desire to join the EU affects both domestic and international policy and will probably continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
Turkey faces a number of serious challenges at home and abroad. One domestic challenge is maintaining a secular government and a balance between the various factions in a country with a strong Islamic base. Turkey’s push to join the EU continues to be a major focus. A number of Western European countries, in particular the right wing parties of France and Germany, are adamantly opposed to Turkey’s membership in the EU. They suggest that instead of membership, Turkey be given the status of a “privileged partnership,” a position Turkey is likely to reject. A majority of EU governments support eventual membership for Turkey, so the opponents seek to slow down the negotiations with “technical obstacles” and reference to the Cyprus problem.
The ongoing conflict with the Greek Cypriots continues to create an obstacle to membership in the EU for Turkey. Resolution of the problem primarily hinges on a settlement that the Greeks would be willing to accept. However, without a change in Greek leadership, resolution of the problem in the near future remains doubtful.
Tensions between the U.S. and Turkey revolve primarily around the Iraq War and the PPK presence in Iraqi Kurdistan. Another issue, however, with the potential for causing a rift between the U.S. and Turkey is the threat by the U.S. Democratic dominated Congress to pass a resolution condemning Turkey for the massacre of Armenians during World War I, which they have labeled as “genocide.” Turkey denies this charge and currently has much in common with Armenia. Both Armenian leaders and Turkish leaders are working to support reconstruction of Iraq as a democratic state. If democracy does not succeed, if the government of Iraq collapses and civil war breaks out, Turkey would be forced to form protective alliances with other Middle Eastern nations such as Iran, Saudi Arabia and Syria.
The Middle East. 11th. Washington: CQ Press, 2007.