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Current Events and their Significance to a Post-Election Turkey Analyzed

Volume 3, Issue 3


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Demetra Atsaloglou
May/June 2011—No. 03 (202) 785-8430

 

AHI President’s Note: The American Hellenic Institute presents AHI’s Capital Report which is a timely synopsis of recent policy discussions in Washington to help keep you abreast of the latest developments. As a service to our membership and constituency, and to gain an understanding of the position of other entities on our issues, the American Hellenic Institute attends and participates at policy forums or roundtable discussions to ensure the policy positions of the Greek-American community are represented.

The content provided in AHI’s Capital Report is for informational purposes only, and does not necessarily reflect the position or opinion of AHI.

Current Events and their Significance to a Post-Election Turkey Analyzed

AHI attended Trials, Tribulations, and Crises: The Road to Turkey’s June 12 Elections, organized by The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on May 9, 2011. Marina Ottaway, director, Middle East Program, Carnegie Endowment, moderated the discussion. The panelists were: Gerald Knaus, founding chairman, European Stability Initiative and associate fellow, Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Harvard University; Orhan Kemal Cengiz, president and founding member, Human Rights Agenda Association; and Henri J. Barkey, visiting scholar, Middle East Program, Carnegie Endowment and Bertha F. Cohen Professor at Lehigh University. The event aimed to highlight current events in Turkey and to provide an assessment of their significance for the post-June 12 election period.

Gerald Knaus argued that Turkey has done well politically and economically during the last decade and has proven that if no dramatic mistakes are made additional improvement is to be expected. During this period, the perception among Turks that the West poses a threat to their religion and culture has largely subsided. This perception has allowed the country to open up to economic and political cooperation and to discuss hitherto taboo topics (e.g. the Armenian genocide, the Istanbul Pogrom). Furthermore, over the last five years, civil-military relations in Turkey have improved considerably because the government has successfully reduced the military’s hold over the legislative and judicial systems. Turkey’s relations with the EU are still strong, and according to Knaus, will remain so in the future. Nevertheless, Turkey still needs to focus on freedom of expression, as well as to acknowledge the shortcomings of the past in order to complete its transformation. These two areas will pose real challenges to the new government.

Orhan Kemal Cengiz noted the paradoxical coexistence in Turkey of forces of democratization and tendencies for authoritarianism. In his view, this can be attributed to the characteristics of the newly emerged Turkish middle class, which is simultaneously conservative, Islamist and attached to the “powerblock” that currently rules the state.  Despite its many “shortcomings and legal defects,” the present government has given minorities living in Turkey reason for optimism. For example, since 2007 the Ergenekon case has forced those who are responsible for the violation of human rights to explain their actions. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan embodies this paradox. He has sought to bring Turkey into the EU; however, at the same, he has exhibited authoritarian tendencies through his efforts to switch to the presidential system. According to Cengiz, it is for this reason that he must not be allowed to proceed with his plan for constitutional reform following the June 12 elections. The absence of effective opposition to the AKP and Erdogan from within Turkey necessitates that the EU continue its dialogue with Turkey in order to provide a check on his authoritarian tendencies. Losing the EU will put democracy in Turkey in danger.

Henri Barkey suggested that the most important part to take away from the election outcome is the percentages that parties receive and the seats they secure in parliament.  He believes analysis of these stats will define Turkey’s future political circumstances. After an analysis of the preparation of the largest contending parties, Barkey noted that Erdogan is obviously looking at the post-election period because of the dismissal and replacement of 367 members of the AK Party. This demonstrates that the prime minister is looking for reliable support for the new constitution. The AKP-Erdogan positions have otherwise remained unchanged.

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Potential Election Implications upon Turkey’s Domestic, Foreign Policies Examined

AHI attended a policy forum titled, The Upcoming Turkish Elections: Implications for Domestic and Foreign Policy, organized by The Center for Turkish Studies at the Middle East Institute (MEI) on May 12, 2011.  The featured speaker was Taha Ozhan, director general of the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA) Ankara. Gonul Tol, executive director of the Center for Turkish Studies at the MEI, moderated. The event sought to examine the possible implications of elections in Turkey upon its domestic and foreign policies.

Taha Ozhan noted that the September 12, 2010 Constitutional Referendum and the June 12, 2011 elections were particularly exciting events because they created expectations of further democratization in Turkey. The aspiration of the Turkish people is a “New Turkey,” in which civil society is empowered and the parties are transformed. In terms of the Constitution, the parties have not yet agreed what the “New Turkey” will look like, but according to Ozhan, participating in the process of constructive dialogue is more important than agreement. Ozhan believe that it is a sign of democratization in and of itself.

Regarding recent changes in political positions and rhetoric, Ozhan highlighted that the meaning of “left” and “right” has shifted significantly. In Turkey, the center-left is gradually diminishing and the right is rising. In the future, observers should expect to see more AKP/ANAP rather that CHP/MHP type parties—more nationalist, conservative, and religious. According to Ozhan, new political discourse is highly unlikely despite efforts to renew leadership and project an image of “newness.”  Challenges or criticism of the old, prevailing, political discourse should not be expected. The reason is that the Turkish people are not providing new demands on political discourse. At the same time, the parties have not sought to expand their social bases, opting instead to take the safe route and maintain their existing bases.  Ozhan argued that all the Turkish parties have marginalized themselves in their regional social bases.

Ozhan concluded by stressing that although Erdogan is expected to win, the aftermath of the election will be critical. The aftermath will define how two of the most important issues in Turkey – the constitution and the Kurdish question – will be resolved.

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Panelists Discuss Arab Spring’s Effect on Turkey

A look at the Arab Spring and its impact on Turkey was the focus of a policy forum titled Upheaval in the Middle East: What is Turkey’s Strategy? organized by the Woodrow Wilson Center attended by AHI on May 12, 2011.  The speakers were Semih Idiz, columnist, CNN Turk and Milliyet; and Ian O. Lesser, senior transatlantic fellow, The German Marshall Fund. The Turkish Policy Quarterly, with support from Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation, co-sponsored the event.

Semih Idiz expressed the view that the recent events in North Africa and the Middle East have created significant problems for Turkey, forcing it to review its “zero problems with neighbors” foreign policy. Turkey’s response to the events in Libya and Syria show that Turkey is divided between a desire to act as a democratizing force for these countries and its economic interests, which are vested in the dictatorial regimes. At the same time, the consequences of the instability in Syria, most notably a major influx of refugees and a possible resurgence of Kurdish separatism, are forcing Turkey to adopt a more realpolitik foreign policy toward Assad and his government. In contrast, foreign policy towards Israel is defined by increasing radicalism. This has led to Turkey losing its ability to act as a mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. As a result, it was Egypt that brokered the Hamas-PLO agreements and not Turkey.

According to Idiz, with regard to implications in Turkey’s domestic policy, the upheavals have not had a noticeable effect. The reason is that Turkey is currently going through an “ugly” pre-election period. Even though the AKP will win the elections, the CHP put forward forceful opposition, and if allowed to gain enough seats in parliament, it will to continue to do so after the election. Furthermore, the AKP is proving increasingly that despite its Islamist roots, it is “a rich man’s party,” focusing on construction work in the northwest rather than an urgently needed welfare system and development projects in the southeast.

Ian O. Lesser reiterated the view that the upheavals have created problems for Turkish foreign policy by exposing that country’s deep interest in the status quo. Lesser predicts Turkey’s future engagement with Iran, as well as with the broader region, will be guided by its commercial interests and will therefore be conservative, which goes against Turkey’s proclaimed interest for increased activism in the region. These changes will also force Turkey to think about its foreign policy more strategically – which means, according to Lesser, that it will have to set priorities and to be more open to dialogue. At the moment, Turkey needs trusted partners in the region and this will require it engage in a lot of “give and take” on critical issues such as Iran’s nuclear program and the EU accession process. Lesser concluded by noting that Turkey will definitely be a role model for the North African and Middle Eastern countries, but for what exactly remains to be seen – on its management of Islam, on the civil-military relationships, or perhaps on economic interest-led foreign policy.

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Previewing Elections in Turkey the Focus in Washington during May

AHI attended an event titled Turkey Decides: The Effects of the 2011 Turkish Elections on Domestic and Foreign Policy, organized by the Rumi Forum on May 16, 2011. The speakers were Gonul Tol, director, Middle East Institute, Matthew Duss, director, Middle East Progress at the Center for American Progress; and Joshua W. Walker, fellow, The German Marshall Fund.  Ali H. Aslan, Washington correspondent for the Turkish newspaper Zaman, moderated.

Gonul Tol focused on the implications of the elections for the Kurdish issue. She argued that the election results were a major success for the Kurdish BDP as it obtained 15% of the vote. BDP’s success points to the broader desire to move away from a Kemalist understanding of national identity and toward a civic understanding of citizenship where all ethnic and religious minorities are taken into account within the new constitution. AKP’s failure to secure 330 seats in the parliament will force it to work with other parties to draft the new constitution. This is likely to pose a great challenge because of the very different perspectives the parties have. Whereas the AKP views it as a broad democratization issue, the BDP demands recognition of Kurdish as a second official language. It is encouraging to see the AKP and CHP leading efforts for liberal consensus, but according to Tol, the nationalist rhetoric that has characterized the election campaigns now needs to be dropped. At the same time, the BDP has a strong mandate: to effectively communicate Kurdish demands and to stop blocking consensus building.

Matthew Duss highlighted that thus far Erdogan has pursued a value-based foreign policy “reminiscent of the style and arrogance of G. W. Bush.” The reality of such a policy, however, is that double standards exist which have to be faced. From a U.S. perspective, a prominent Turkey is important for regional interests, yet recent developments have not been encouraging. Turkey’s relation and response toward Iran has been particularly discouraging, he cited. The U.S. will be waiting for changes in Turkey’s position.

Joshua Walker stated that the Turkish elections garnered very little attention in the United States. Instead, Prime Minster Erdogan’s complete domination of the elections which overshadowed the fact that the AKP lost seats in parliament was the dominant narrative. Erdogan remains the only recognized leader in Turkey and while he is expected to consolidate his power by running for president, he must accept that pluralism and diversity are important for Turkey; that “to be a Turk does not mean to be Turkish.” To accept this and work for a constitution that embraces diversity will allow him to be magnanimous. In terms of foreign policy, Walker argued that Turkey was caught by surprise by the events in its neighboring countries. Nevertheless, a democratic Middle East is in Turkey’s best interests, politically and economically, and Turkey must work towards this direction. To be a global leader, Erdogan must work to find solutions to global problems rather than create them.

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Former American Envoy to EU: EU Will Not Let Greece Collapse

AHI attended a lecture What the European Union means to America? held at the Institute of World Politics on June 14, 2011. The featured speaker was former U.S. ambassador to the European Union (EU) Boyden Gray.

Ambassador Gray explained the importance of the bond that links the U.S. to the EU and the mutual interests that they share.  However, despite these common interests, the main problem with the EU is communication, in his opinion. For example, there is still no EU ambassador with whom to communicate and work.  With regard to issues of defense, Ambassador Gray said he had to deal with NATO which is not an EU institution. He noted that even when EU representatives were brought together there was no common response to the issues with which they were dealing.  The diverging interests are the origin of all the actual difficulties that the EU has to face, in his opinion. Concerning the Greek crisis, which is one of those problems faced, he does not think that the member states of the EU will let Greece collapse. However, he is skeptical of the EU’s ability to efficiently provide help to Greece.

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DC Think-tanks Offer Turkey’s Post-Election Breakdown

Woodrow Wilson Center

AHI attended a policy forum titled Turkey’s Elections: Great Expectations for Democratization or Business as Usual? at the Woodrow Wilson Center on June 16, 2011. Dr. Fuat Keyman, director, Istanbul Policy Center and professor, International Relations, Sabanci University, was the featured speaker.

Dr. Keyman discussed the results of the Turkish general elections that occurred on June 12, 2011. According to Dr. Keyman, the reason that the AKP maintained its position in parliament was due to the various successes it brought to the well-being of Turkey: increased infrastructure, an increase in the economic growth rate, active globalization, a balance between modernity and traditional values, and the professional/charismatic leadership of Prime Minister Erdogan. He presented a Pew survey that demonstrated how optimistic Turkish citizens are for the future of Turkey under the leadership of Erdogan and the AKP. The recent general election proved that the Turkish people have become more involved with politics especially given the diminished influence of the military and the judiciary.

Despite the satisfaction and optimism, Turkey’s Parliament will face two challenges: the Kurdish situation and the re-writing of the constitution. Dr. Keyman said the Kurdish people who congregate in parts of Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria will continue to battle for the ownership of part of Turkey for the establishment of a Kurdish state. This will impact the AKP’s policy agenda along with the issue of including Kurdish rights in the constitution. He stated Turkish parliament is ready to begin the drafting process to rewrite the constitution. There will be debate reaching agreements within the parties CHP and MHP, but overall Turkey has set goals to create a more democratic nation.

Brookings Institution

On June 17, 2011 AHI attended a policy forum titled Assessing the Outcomes of Turkey’s Elections at the Brookings Institution. The panelists of the forum were: Fuat Keyman, director, Istanbul Policy Center and professor, Sabancı University; Nuh Yılmaz, director, Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA), and Ömer Taşpınar, nonresident senior fellow, Foreign Policy, Center on the United States and Europe.

Fuat Keyman opened the forum stating that the Turkish elections were noteworthy because “they were free and democratic, with no incidents of corruption or suspicions about the final result.”  He presented five main points as the most significant with regard to the elections:

  • the record participation of 87 percent,
  • the strengthening of the participatory capacity of the Turkish parliament,
  • the result was a win-win case for the political system,
  • the elections brought more women, Kurds and young people to the forefront, and
  • the intense debates and political clashes of the pre-election period gave space to a post-election environment in which political and societal polarization is actually absent.

He highlighted a number of determinative factors that, in his view led to the AKP’s victory: the robust Turkish economic performance that secured high growth rates and full employment, the balance between traditional modernity, tradition and globalization and the Turkish globalized foreign policy.

Nuh Yilmaz pointed out that all the major issues regarding Turkey, which include constitutional reform, and the Kurdish question, should be analyzed through the prism of Turkish ambition to be recognized as an independent power. It is his belief that these issues should not be seen as existential tests for Turkey (in the sense of abandoning the western type democracy reforms). He concluded by asking whether Washington wants an equal partner, or in contrast, an unequal alliance with Turkey.

 Ömer Taşpınar concluded the panel discussion by presenting his opinion that Turkish foreign policy was not a determining factor in the elections. He considered the country’s economic success after the reforms of 2000-2001 as far more important and influential to the success of the AKP. He made reference to an orientalist prejudice vis-à-vis Turkey due to the fear that the Islamist AKP has a secret agenda. He also identified the Kurdish question as the main challenge that Turkey is facing and believes that the constitutional reform will bring it to the fore. In his regard, the fact that Erdogan did not win super majority in the parliament can be assessed as a positive development. Taşpınar also expressed concern on the structural deficiencies of the Turkish economy, such as the danger of overheating and the eight percent of the GDP trade deficit.  As far as foreign policy, he believes that Turkey has to reorient itself toward the EU because Turkey needs it to deal with a number of domestic issues—predominantly the Kurdish question. Finally, he noted that the Turkish role in Middle East will decline as Egypt will emerge again as a powerhouse in the region. In sum, Turkey has to capitalize on its comparative advantages vis-à-vis Egypt, its relations with the EU and its participation to NATO and the Council of Europe. It should also restore its relations with Israel in order to play a role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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Major Conference on Turkey’s Policy Agenda Features Envoys, Academics, Analysts

The Second Annual Conference of the Middle East Institute’s Center for Turkish Studies themed Change Within and Beyond Borders: Turkey’s Domestic and Foreign Policy Agenda was held in Washington on June 23, 2011. A myriad of speakers were on the conference’s program. Their remarks are highlighted below.

Keynote Address: Honorable Alexander Vershbow, assistant secretary of Defense for International Security 

Assistant Secretary Vershbow began his remarks reminding everyone of the difficulties that existed between the United States and Turkey last year at the first annual conference on Turkey. In his view, since that time, relations between Turkey and the United States have recovered and strengthened despite the disappointment following the Gaza flotilla, the Turkish vote on UN security council Resolution 1929 and the P5+1 dismissal of the Teheran declaration. The United States recognizes Turkey as an “indispensable partner” which supports and helps the government formation process in Iraq and the creation of a peaceful and democratic country. Moreover, Turkey had a leading role during the “Arab Spring” in Tunisia, Egypt, and more recently against the Assad’s regime in Syria. Turkey continues to exercise its own leadership and is a source of inspiration to the countries that aspire to free-market and secular democracy.

Furthermore, Assistant Secretary Vershbow underscored the importance of Turkey in the international community as it remains a strong supporter of NATO and especially to its mission in Afghanistan. However, the Turkish and American policies are not always aligned. He was specifically concerned by the tense relations between Turkey and Israel and would like to see the two countries move forward. In his opinion, the U.S. and Turkey share a strong belief in the universal rights and a common aspiration for fair and accountable governance. The two countries must maintain their strong defense cooperation; Turkey must remain “strongly committed to NATO and NATO to Turkey.” The growing technological capacities and strong defense industries were highlighted but also the difficult geographical situation of Turkey (because of the Syrian crisis, the war in Iraq) and the threat of the PKK they have to cope with. Another challenge is to engage a rapprochement of Turkey with its neighbors. More specifically, the neighbors are Armenia and the “still-divided Cyprus.” The U.S. and Turkey should work together to bring into closer alignment their efforts in order to assure a political stability to Turkey’s unstable geographical region. In closing, he expressed optimism on the future of U.S. and Turkey’s relations.

Keynote Address:  Turkish Ambassador to the U.S. Namik Tan

Ambassador Tan expressed that Turkey is going through difficult times. He described the United States as a vast region with a Christian majority that is a global actor in diplomatic relations because of its economic and diplomatic supremacy. To sustain this standing, the Unites States needs to increase its soft power and partnerships. One of the U.S. partners is Turkey, a country that is at the center of Afro-Asia, increasingly attracting U.S. investments. In his view, the U.S. and Turkey need each other in order to bring stability to the region. Although he underlined the importance of this relationship, the ambassador emphasized that there are important issues that need to be addressed that must not be forgotten.

The European location of Turkey justifies its commitment to democracy, freedom and liberal economy, according to the ambassador. For this reason, Turkey’s policy is not inclusive and not based on religion or ideology. To give an example, he highlighted that relations with Armenia have improved.  Also, during the last couple of years, trade relations with Israel are really good, and he expressed that Israel is an important trade partner for Turkey.

In terms of foreign policy, Ambassador Tan stated that policy prevents conflicts and makes enormous efforts to find solutions to diplomatic issues. Therefore, he mentioned that a development of relations with Iran or Russia is not a shift of policy. Turkey disapproves of the prospect of Iran becoming a nuclear power. Turkey is deeply rooted in the Middle East and wants to change the image of the Middle East. Turkey is not an outsider to the region, and it wants the region to be safe and peaceful.  Ambassador Tan stressed Turkey is the first Muslim country that recognized Israel, and since then, has had uninterrupted friendly relations. Hence, he offered Turkey’s position on the flotilla incident stating that Turkey was shocked by the killing of Turkish citizens by the Israeli state on Turkish soil. Moreover, the Gaza convoy was not Turkish. The 600 activists in the convoy were Turkish but also included Americans and Jews. He added Israeli defense forces attacked the boat in clear violation of international law. Ambassador Tan underlined that Israel’s current policy is leading the country to a global isolation.

Panel I: Rethinking Turkey-U.S. Relations in a New Era

Dr. Stephen F. Szabo, executive director, Transatlantic Academy at the German Marshall Fund, moderated the conference’s first panel discussion.

Professor Mustafa Aydin, president, Kadir Has University in Istanbul, offered a historical account of the U.S.-Turkey relationship from the World War II alliance partnership to 9/11. He concluded both countries need to make adjustments. The U.S. needs to pay more attention to Turkish concepts, policy and view and Turkey needs time to adapt to the new order.

The second panelist, Brian Katulis, senior fellow, Center for American Progress, depicted the U.S.- Turkey relationship as an “old couple” who have known each other for years. He iterated that the U.S. needs Turkey, a Muslim majority country, as a spokesman to help with Iraq.  Katulis believes Turkey is also a great partner to help solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to aid in the difficulties of communication that the U.S. experiences with Iran.  Lastly, Katulis underscored a few uncertainties concerning Turkey that deal with an eventual shift of Turkey’s policy.

Jay Solomon, chief foreign affairs correspondent, Wall Street Journal, concluded the panel. He stated EU membership for Turkey is no longer an issue. Some European leaders want to block the process even if President Obama is in favor of Turkey’s accession. Concerning the Cyprus problem, Turkey does not accept any kind of pressure. In Solomon’s opinion, the 2013 Cypriot leadership of the EU will not change the nature of the relations between the two countries. Instead, it can only worsen them.

Keynote Address: Dr. Ibrahim Kalin, chief advisor to the Turkish Prime Minister 

Dr. Kalin touched upon three topics in his speech: democratization, economy, and foreign policy.

On democratization, he is convinced that Turkey is making progress to resolve its chronic issues. On the Kurdish issue, he believes normalization is in progress.  He points to the increased number of seats in the Turkish parliament by the PDP, allowing it to have the ear of the government. Furthermore, he described the Turkish economy as remarkable in contrast to the worldwide crisis. Restructuration has been the basis of Erdogan’s campaign.

With regard to foreign policy, he stated that Turkey sees itself as a political and economic model for the “Arab Spring” countries. In his view, the foreign policy issues that are mostly at stake are:

  • the new constitution,
  • the Kurdish issue, and
  • EU reforms.


In Turkey there is a general consensus on drafting a new constitution, which is viewed as necessary in order to make Turkey’s government more efficient and adapt to its new role. A new development in the Turkish parliament is Turkey’s efforts concerning the Kurdish issue and democratization. Indeed, there are new members of Parliament from the PDP (the Kurdish party) in Turkey.  However, the PKK, a Kurdish terrorist organization, disrupts Turkey’s peace.  Speaking about the EU, Dr. Kalin said Turkey is not giving up its bid to become an EU member. He also wants to show the will of the government to hasten the process. In his opinion, the “Turko-skeptism” developed in Europe will make it more difficult for Turkey’s accession.

Panel II: Turkish Domestic Politics after the Elections: What is Next?

Dr. Henri Barkey, visiting scholar, Carnegie Middle East Program, discussed how the AKP won 50 percent of the vote in the general election (the first time since the succession of the Democratic Party in 1950). Dr. Barkey also highlighted the success the Kurdish party realized from the election, leading to an increase of representation in Parliament. The Kurdish party now possesses 36 seats, which will lead to a difficult debate about the inclusion of individual Kurdish rights in the new constitution.

Dr. Murat Somer, democracy and development fellow, Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies (PIIRS), Princeton University, and associate professor of International Relations, KOC University, maintained that Turkey faces four issues preventing a democracy:

  • the Kurdish people,
  • the secularism of minorities in Turkey,
  • the lack of freedom of expression, and
  • the separation of powers.

He recognized the importance of the Kurds as a minority and the need to educate Turkish people about Kurdish traditions to a uniformed democracy. He added that the secularism of women and minorities of different religious origins have become extreme which prevents a unified nation. The limits upon freedom of speech in Turkey restrict the rights of individuals to express their concerns. Furthermore, he pointed out that one federal branch is more powerful than the others which creates an unbalance in how politics is carried out in Turkey. In his opinion, a democracy would need an equal balance of all three branches to ensure a government is administered properly. Overall, Dr. Somer argued that Turkey is great model for democracy among the Middle East, but has room for improvement.

Carol Migdalovitz, former specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs at the Congressional Research Service, argued that Turkey’s Judiciary Branch needs to seek out independence in order to protect individual rights. In the context of protecting individual rights, Mrs. Migdalovitz cited the minority communities of Turkey, including women and Greek Orthodox Christians. In her view, gender equality is still uneven with numerous cases of murder and violence toward women. Furthermore, the religious freedom of Greek Orthodox Christians in Istanbul is still limited, making it a hot topic in Congress and the U.S. State Department.

“The training of Greek Orthodox clergy in Turkey has been an eleven-year battle and one that will probably continue,” she said.

She also highlighted the lack of recognition of the Ecumenical Patriarch as an ongoing issue.

Panel III: Turkey’s Foreign Policy in a Changing Middle East

Turkish politician Suat Kiniklioglu, AKP Deputy Chairman of External Affairs, opened the final panel. He said the U.S. would benefit from investing in Turkish experts who can help make America a more influential country. He also stated that Turkey’s policy is tied with its neighbors’ (North Africa, Caucasus, and Middle East) policies, especially on trading with unions and lifting the visa policy.

Dr. Alon Liel, former director general, Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, discussed the ties between Turkey and Israel. In his opinion, Muslim and Jewish people were close in the 1990s, but in the 2000s, the media’s reporting of Israeli-Palestinian issues in Turkey led to the diminished bond between the two countries. Currently, Turkey and Israel are still not close due to the recent Flotilla incident conflict.