In a session of parliament on Sunday at which the budget for the year 2013 was to be discussed, a heated debate on foreign policy broke out between Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and members of the opposition.
“The Turkish Republic has never before lost so much dignity in the eyes of its neighbors, and never has it been exposed to such threats from its neighbors [as it is today],” Osman Korutürk of the Republican People's Party (CHP) stated.
Noting that Turkey has able to maintain good relations in the past with such countries as Iran, Iraq, Syria and Israel, and that in fact mediated peace negotiations between Syria and Israel, he said, “Today, we are at daggers drawn with all these countries.” He added that Turkey's “zero problems with neighbors” foreign policy is a laughable claim.
Korutürk, a former diplomat, based his claim of poor diplomatic relations with neighbors on several issues. Most recently, a plane carrying Energy Minister Taner Yıldız was denied permission to land in Arbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Regional Government, by the Iraqi central government. Turkey has also received strong criticism from Iran and Russia on an early warning radar system installed by NATO at the beginning of last year in Malatya's Kürecik district, which Iran says was deployed to protect Israel. They have also spoken out against Patriot missile systems NATO has agreed to deploy in Turkey against a possible missile threat from Syria. “Referring to the Patriots, Iranian army chief Hassan Firouzabadi warned yesterday that they could even cause a world war.”
Turkey's relations with NATO were also criticized by a CHP deputy, who said that Turkey is far from playing an active role in NATO. “On the contrary, it looks as though the leading members of NATO are directing Turkey through the alliance,” Korutürk said, claiming that Syria is being used as an excuse for the deployment of the Patriot missiles, the real aim for which is to protect the radar in Kürecik -- a case in point that Turkey is being used by NATO.
Describing the situation in Iraq as a very important issue in the Middle East, Korutürk noted that the efforts of the Kurdistan Regional Government to annex Kirkuk pose a serious threat that could pave the way to the breakup of Iraq and demanded to know Turkey's position on the Kirkuk issue. He implied that Turkey's support of the Kurdistan Regional Government by concluding energy contracts with it without going through the Iraqi central government may also lead to the breakup of the country, which may in turn could further incite the separatist terrorist activities of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in Turkey.
Tuğrul Türkeş, head of the Nationalist Movement Party's (MHP) party council, criticized the government for not caring as much about the Turkmen living in Iraq and Syria as the Palestinians. “What does it matter that you cry for Palestine if you are not crying over those martyred in the terrorist attacks that the Turkmen in Iraq and Syria have been living through,” Türkeş said.
Türkeş also questioned the radar system installed in Kürecik, saying, “Who is in charge of the radar system in Kürecik, and who is the owner of the system?” Noting that Turkey is strong enough to ensure its own security, he said, “It is unacceptable for Turkey to be under NATO patronage.”
Deputies of both the CHP and MHP criticized the government for not duly protecting Turkey's interests in the Aegean Sea. “Three of our islands in the Aegean, to which our citizens would go to picnic until three years ago, are now under the control of Greece. If these are categorized as islands of which ownership is unclear, why, then, are Greek flags flying there?” asked Türkeş.
Stating that the opposition parties lack vision in foreign policy, Davutoğlu said, “We have become the spokesperson for the global conscience,” a reference to Turkey's stance on the Syrian crisis and Palestinian issue.
Davutoğlu made it clear Turkey will continue to support the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. “We don't care about who is frustrated about [recent developments at the UN regarding] Palestine; we will stand by the Palestinian people,” the foreign minister said.
In response to criticism from the opposition parties, Davutoğlu accused them of failing to understand Turkey's stance, maintaining that Turkey is on its way to becoming a major power in 2023 and that nobody will be able to break up Turkey.