Following its electoral victory in 2002, Turkey's Justice and Development Party (AK Party) embarked on an ambitious reform program in both domestic and foreign policy. The Middle East has changed dramatically over the past decade, but our government's foreign policy philosophy remains the same. In particular, our "zero problem with neighbors" principle remains alive and well -- and more relevant than ever to resolving the challenges facing our region.
From the moment the AK Party government was formed, it faced enormous foreign-policy challenges. On the one hand, Turkey was confronted with an immediate crisis, as the ill-fated U.S. war on Iraq was fast impending. On the other hand, Turkey was plagued by chronic foreign-policy disputes with nearly all of its neighbors -- disputes that served as tremendous barriers to the normalization of regional relations.
In many ways, Turkey's diplomacy during the Iraq war and beyond, where it sought to mediate between all major political groups, foretold the efforts we, the AK Party, were going to undertake in the coming years. It was our goal to liberate Turkey from its problematic relations with neighboring countries, address the persistent fault lines and tensions in its vicinity through regional cooperation, and act with a clear foreign-policy vision underpinned by proactive rather than reactive policies. This forward-looking foreign policy led to a redefinition of Turkey's policy toward its neighbors.
As a scholar of international relations, I have long asserted that a major reason for Turkey's relative isolation from its neighborhood had to do with the framework that dominated the mindset of Turkish foreign-policy elites for decades -- a mindset that erected obstacles between Turkey and its neighbors physically, mentally, and politically. The new AK Party government hoped to reintegrate Turkey with its surroundings, and this new strategy necessitated a major break with the old foreign-policy culture. In its electoral platform, the AK Party resolved to improve relations with Turkey's neighbors and pursue a more dynamic and multidimensional foreign policy. This was a foreign-policy vision I had been advocating in academia, and was thus more than happy to make my own contribution toward the realization of that new approach.
When I became Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's chief foreign-policy advisor, I not only worked to advise him on the practical handling of Turkey's external affairs, but also endeavored to set forth new ideas that would guide my country's foreign policy in the new era. I proposed that our foreign policy would be based upon six core principles: a balance between security and freedom, zero problems with neighbors, a multidimensional foreign policy, a pro-active regional foreign policy, an altogether new diplomatic style, and rhythmic diplomacy.
Though these principles were by no means static, they
have since inspired our institutional foreign policy approach. Together,
they formed an internally coherent set of principles -- a blueprint, so to
speak -- that both guides our approach to regional crises and helps Turkey reassert
itself as a preeminent country in the international system.
It is with this fresh and innovative thinking that the AK Party government has also delivered numerous domestic reforms to expand the scope of democratic freedoms at home. Without a stable domestic order that meets its citizens' demands for liberties, after all, Turkey cannot pursue a proactive foreign-policy agenda abroad.