Turkey and the Middle East in the 'New Era' by ProQuest

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									Turkey and the Middle East
in the ‘New Era’
                                                                                 WILLIAM HALE*

Barack Obama’s inauguration
                                                 n March 2009, Turkey’s then foreign
as America’s new president has                   minister, Ali Babacan, told the Turk-
been welcomed as opening a ‘new         ish TV audience that the installation of Barack
era’ in Turkey’s relations with the
                                        Obama as America’s new president had opened
United States. May 2009 also saw
the appointment of a new foreign        a ‘new era’ in relations between the two coun-
minister in Ankara, in the person       tries.1 The president expressed the same hope
of Professor Ahmet Davutoğlu.           one month later, on April 6, with an official
This article examines how these
new directions are playing out in       visit to Turkey — his first to a Muslim country
the Middle East, one of the world’s     — which included a speech to the Grand Na-
most turbulent regions which            tional Assembly in Ankara. In this speech, he
also has crucial economic and
strategic importance for Turkey. It
                                        alluded to the serious tensions in the Turkish-
focuses on Turkey’s relations with      American relationship caused by the US inva-
four regional states – Iraq, Israel/    sion of Iraq in 2003, and urged that the two
Palestine, Syria and Iran. The
                                        countries must now come together.2 He drew
article closes by assessing whether
Turkey has been able to achieve         particular attention to the Middle East as a re-
the government’s ambition of            gion in which the United States needed to stake
‘zero problems’ with its neighbors,
                                        out new policies, re-awakening a longstanding
and the degree to which it has
been able to develop a new role         debate as to whether Turkey should uncouple
as conciliator and go-between           its regional policies from its relations with its
in addressing the region’s bitter       most important ally.

                                        * Professor Emeritus, School of Oriental and African Studies, Lon-
                                        don University, whl@soas.ac.uk

Insight Turkey Vol. 11 / No. 3 / 2009
pp. 143-159                                                                                                  143

          Speculation continued in May 2009 when Professor Ahmet Davutoğlu, pre-
      viously chief foreign policy advisor to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan, became
      Turkey’s new foreign minister. In a book published in 2000
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