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Turkish PM hints at major foreign policy change towards neighbors

By Rudaw 12/7/2016
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Turkish PM hints at major foreign policy change towards neighbors
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim. AP photo.

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim says that Turkey would try to improve its relations with its neighbors as there are “not many reasons’ to fight with any of them, including Egypt and Syria. 

“There are not many reasons for us to fight with Iraq, Syria, Egypt and countries in all regions. But there are many reasons to carry relations forward,” Yildirim said at a meeting of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Ankara on Monday, according to Hurriyet news. 

Turkey began normalizing relations with both Israel and Russia last month. 

In the last few months of 2015 Turkey shot down a Russian warplane over its border with Syria (leading Moscow to level economic sanctions against Ankara) and entered a diplomatic feud with Baghdad over its deployment of extra troops in a forward-operating-base near Mosul. 

Also Turkey has been backing armed groups fighting the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad throughout the five-year-old war in that country.

Ankara has also refused to recognize the government of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as legitimate and denounced the July 2013 military coup, which ousted the Muslim Brotherhood government. 

In Syria the Russians have militarily-backed the regime of President Bashar al-Assad (intervening decisively on his side last year) while Turkey has supported various armed groups, many of whom were Islamists, seeking to topple that regime. 

Last month Turkey and Russia began to normalize relations after the Turkish government expressed its regret for shooting down Russia’s warplane over the Turkish-Syrian border late last November, an incident which led to a severe strain in relations between the two countries.  

Yilidrim’s statement implies that many of these policies will change and that Turkey will revert to the pre-2011 “zero problems with neighbors” policy, whereby it will downplay its disagreements with regional countries in order to maintain fruitful economic and business ties with them. 

Also on Tuesday Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed hope that normalization of ties between his country and Turkey will lead to cooperation over Syria. 

“Normalization of relations with Turkey … will have a positive effect on the situation in the region in general, and I hope will help us to search more effectively for common approaches for overcoming the Syrian crisis, on which the positions of Russia and Turkey are far from coinciding,” Lavrov said, according to Russia’s Tass news agency. 

“However, my honest conversation with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Sochi allows me to hope that there will now be less disagreements with our Turkish partners, and we will try to negotiate more openly on implementing the decisions of the UN Security Council and ISSG [International Syria Support Group],” he added.
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