Memorandum from Professor Clement Dodd
BRITISH POLICY TOWARDS TURKEY
A. TURKISH FOREIGN
It would seem reasonable to assume that British
policy with regard to Turkey must at least take into account Turkey's
main foreign policy determinants and current concerns.
1. The broad determinants of Turkish foreign
policy may be said to be as follows:
(i) A strong Atatürkist tradition of
non-interference without due cause in the affairs of neighbouring
states, and in particular great caution about offering support
to Turkish/Muslim minorities remaining in what were once Ottoman
territories, eg. in Thrace and Bulgaria.
(ii) A strong ambition, promoted also by
Atatürk, to be regarded as part of European civilisation
and a European state.
(iii) A determination not to surrender Turkish
territory as determined in the 1921 Turkish National Pact and
accepted in the Treaty of Lausanne. In particular this means that
Kurdish separatism is not acceptable.
(iv) A refusal to accept Armenian claims
of genocide during and after World War 1, and a disinclination
to surrender any territory to present-day Armenia by way of recompense.
(v) The maintenance of a special relationship
with the USA, seen as Turkey's vital ally in the cold war and
more appreciative of Turkey's regional importance than EU and
other European states.
2. The most important current issues are
(i) Caspian oil: Turkey, short of oil, is
very eager to have Caspian basin oil transported by pipeline via
south-east Turkey to the Mediterranean port of Ceyhan (Jeyhan).
This has broad American support in preference to export via Iran.
Turkey also does not want Caspian oil transported by tankers from
Black Sea ports via the Straits, mainly for important environmental
reasons. Kurdish separatism could, of course, affect the security
of the oil route to Ceyhan.
(ii) Iraq: Turkey would be pleased to see
the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, but not the dismemberment of
Iraq if that should encourage aspiration for a Kurdish state embracing
the Kurds of Turkey, Iraq and Iran. In this event the absorption
of outside Kurds and Türkmen, and of Mosul, into Turkey is
(iii) Relations with Israel: Turkey has profitable
arrangements with Israel in military procurements, maintenance
and training, but seeks to keep in sympathy with Arab feeling
on the Palestine question.
(iv) The Aegean: Turkey is requested by the
Helsinki European Council (December 1999) to resolve any outstanding
border disputes as a preliminary to progress towards EU membership.
The most important Aegean dispute with Greece is the Greek desire
to extend the territorial waters of its Aegean islands to 12 miles,
the current international norm. Turkey cannot accept this since
about 65 per cent of the Aegean, it claims, would then become
Greek, thus theoretically blocking in Turkey, which would control
some 10 per cent of the Aegean. Greece has also illegally fortified
some Aegean islands. Turkey has declared in the past that unilateral
action by Greece to extend territorial waters in the Aegean would
be a casus belli, but now seems more prepared, if negotiations
fail, to allow decision by the International Court of Justice.
(v) Cyprus: The Cyprus problem began in 1963
when the Greek Cypriots under Makarios, ousted the Turkish Cypriots
from the joint government established under the 1960 international
treaties. For political reasons the rump Greek Cypriot government
came to be recognised by the UN as the legitimate government of
the Republic of Cyprus. In 1974 Turkey, as a Guarantor Power,
used its rights under the 1960 Treaties to intervene in order
to prevent enosis (union with Greece) promised by the Greek
Junta that overthrew the Greek Cypriot government, and to rescue
the Turkish Cypriots from further persecution. Turkish forces
have ever since remained in Cyprus at the behest of the Turkish
Cypriot government to support the Turkish Cypriots against the
threat of further attack. In 1975 the Turkish Cypriots established
a liberal democratic system that continues to work reasonably
well. This small democratic state is subject to an international
embargo that cripples its economy (by preventing the development
of international tourism) and enforces a large measure of economic
dependence on Turkey.
The de facto division of the island has
not been recognised by the UN. Turkey is often held to be responsible
for the lack of a settlement of this dispute. It is sometimes
said (notably in the European Parliament) that Turkey will not
enter the EU until it solves the Cyprus dispute. The ECHR, in
May 2001, declared that because Turkey has troops in Northern
Cyprus it therefore controls the country. No other proof was offered.
Essentially Turkey supports the Turkish Cypriots
in demanding that any solution should provide political equality
for the Turkish Cypriots, as broadly provided for in the 1960
treaties establishing the Republic of Cyprus. The Greek Cypriots
have always believed that they should be more than equal, constituting
as they do three quarters of the population of the island. The
Turkish government rejects any suggestion that it is responsible
for the Cyprus problem, which it did not create, and deplores
the acceptance of the Greek Cypriot government's application to
join the EU as if it had a right to control the island as a whole.
Support for the Turkish Cypriots in Turkish public opinion, and
in the military, are factors Turkish politicians have to take
seriously into account. If the Republic of Cyprus is admitted
to the EU without a solution, Turkey may well be said to have
troops in an EU member state without warrant: relations between
Turkey and Greece, and between Turkey and the EU will undoubtedly
B. BRITISH POLICY
1. The Main Focus
The broad aim of British policy, it is suggested,
should be to contribute to the strengthening of Turkey's position
and influence in its area, and to link Turkey's interests with
those of the West. Why is this important? Because:
(i) Middle Eastern and Caspian oil are vital
to the European and British economy. The sometimes unpredictable
regimes in the Middle East need to be closely monitored, as the
Gulf War showed. Turkey with its large military forces and important
air bases on the periphery of the Middle East therefore has an
important role to play. Turkey's close relationship with Azerbaijan
and its significant, if less close, relations with other Turkic
Central Asian states are also important in ensuring continuity
of oil supply from the Caspian region. For historic reasons many
of the nationalist elite in Turkey see Central Asia as the ancestral
home of the Turks and a natural area of influence for Turkey,
which could therefore act as a gateway to Central Asia for the
(ii) The important loci of world terrorism
lie at present in fundamentalist Islamic groups. Although fundamentalist
elements are present in Turkey, often promoted from outside, religion
in Turkey is largely state controlled, though allowed, and sometimes
even encouraged. Turkey is therefore the prime example of a secular
state which manages to cope more or less successfully with Islam.
Turkey's close alignment with the West would help span the Christian
(or post-Christian) /Islamic divide. It would help persuade Islamic
groups in the world generally, including the many in Europe, that
differences between Islam and the norms of modern Western life
are not crucial.
(iii) Turkey's most important trading partner
by far is the European Union, with which there is a Customs Union
agreement. Turkey is a large country with a young population of
some 65 millions, relatively underdeveloped, and a potential manufacturing
and distribution base for commerce with the Middle East and Central
(iv) The Turkish military is large, efficient,
opposed to Islamic fundamentalism, and much respected in Turkey;
its officers are carefully selected and are imbued with Atatürkist
ideology, in which nationalism and secularism are uppermost. They
also believe Turkey should be recognised as a European state.
They wish to participate in the EU's defence structures, though
until Turkey becomes an EU member state they will regard bilateral
links with the United States and NATO membership as fundamental
to Turkey's defence and will not wish the Turkish government to
allow the use of NATO planning and other assets in WEU-led operations.
(An agreement recently reached with Turkey to allow the use of
NATO assets, provided any EU force is not involved in operations
against Turkey's interests, has not so far been accepted by the
Greek government). If Turkey's EU application appears to be coming
to fruition, Turkey should perhaps be allowed to become a full
member of the WEU, or whichever organisation succeeds it.
If for these reasons close relations between
Turkey and the West are seen to be important, clearly there needs
to be a settled situation in the Eastern Mediterranean. This means
that Greek-Turkish relations have to be stable. This is difficult
to achieve because Greece tends to think of itself as the outpost
of Europe in the east, partly for historical reasons, and because
of real problems between the two countries, as mentioned above.
The major question also arises, namely, should
not Turkey be entrusted, as it were, to the United States and
kept in alignment with the western world through its close relationship
with the USA, whose awareness of Turkey's strategic importance
probably outweighs that of most European states? Also the USA
has always been ready to help Turkey financially, especially through
its influence in the IMF.
However, although American support of, and close
relations with, Turkey must remain, if Turkey is really to be
part of the western world, some fundamental changes in Turkey's
political and social system are needed that would be to go beyond
the remit of the United States' strategic concerns. The EU states,
including Britain, are in a better position to achieve this by
seeking to prepare Turkey for admission to the European Union.
Already Turkey is having to amend its constitution
and enact new legislation to meet the human and political rights
requirements of the Copenhagen Criteria. More reforms are required,
however, than are encompassed by the Copenhagen Criteria if Turkey
is to reach western European standards in liberal and democratic
government. For instance the system of public administration is
in need of drastic reform, to a greater degree than is probably
envisaged in the Copenhagen Criteria. Also clientelism and patronage
in politics need to be greatly reduced, and the conditions for
recurrent military intervention should be avoided. (The military
has intervened mainly to save the state from disorder, Islamic
extremism and corruption).
In short, Britain should promote EU membership
for Turkey and might usefully explore ways, in the EU context,
of encouraging more reform in Turkish political institutions than
that envisaged in the Copenhagen Criteria.
3. Particular issues in British policy
(i) Iraq: Britain needs to discourage any
attack on Saddam Hussein that is likely to lead to the break-up
of Iraq and the creation of difficulties for Turkey with its Kurdish
problem, though the replacement of Hussein would not be unwelcome
(ii) The Kurdish question: Britain should
not encourage polices that encourage Kurdish self-determination.
Every case for self-determination has to be considered on its
merits, with particular attention being paid to the consequences
for other states. But the Turkish government needs to be encouraged
to woo moderate Kurdish leaders in Turkey and to ensure that Kurds
have an equal, or more than equal, opportunity to hold responsible
positions in political and other institutions. This could be accompanied
by encouragement for some cultural reforms, like the use of Kurdish
in broadcasting and its part use in education. Attention to the
prosperity of the Kurdish population is also important in order
to make the prospect of union with Kurds in Iraq and Iran less
than attractive economically.
(iii) The Aegean: Initiatives should be developed,
if not already under way, to promote Greek-Turkish discussions
of Aegean problems to avoid recourse to the International Court
of Justice if possible, where legality may overrule common sense.
(iv) Cyprus: This is the most troublesome
problem in the Eastern Mediterranean. British policy has hitherto
been to support the Greek Cypriots for the sake, mainly, it seems
for the continued security of the British sovereign bases in Cyprus
and the availability of listening posts in Greek Cypriot territory.
It is argued that Britain has to abide by the March 1964 Security
Council decision that led to the acceptance of the solely Greek
Cypriot government as the legitimate government of the Republic
of Cyprus established in 1960. It is also argued that the Helsinki
Final Act of 1975 calls for the preservation of international
frontiers and the territorial integrity of states, though this
somewhat self-contradictory Act also requires respect for the
equal rights of peoples and their right to self-determination.
The maintenance of international frontiers and the integrity of
states have largely given way to self-determination in the cases
of Kosovo and East Timor.
The British government has always declined to
take advantage of its legal right, as a Guarantor Power of the
1960 settlement, to restore the rights of the Turkish Cypriots
under the 1960 Constitution. It is not then altogether surprising
that in Turkey Britain does not have a good reputation and this
militates against British influence. British spokesmen, and Ministers
in the House of Commons, have often deplored the "intransigence"
of the Turkish Cypriot "leader" Rauf Denktash without
showing much understanding of the Turkish Cypriot case.
It would greatly help a solution of the Cyprus
problem if Britain, which is acknowledged to have a special interest
in Cyprus, acted more even-handedly. To support an economic embargo
on Northern Cyprus, thus impoverishing a struggling democracy,
is surely unacceptable. It is arguable that the Greek Cypriots
are a much greater impediment to a settlement than the Turkish
Cypriots. In this regard it would seem wise not to discourage
some Arab states from an inclination they have shown of late to
consider recognising the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
The Greek Cypriots have to be made to realise that the Turkish
Cypriots have a legal land moral right to recognition of their
now long-established state, and that without this recognition
a viable solution is virtually impossible.
Above all Britain, as a Guarantor Power, must
insist that Turkey neither created the Cyprus problem nor is responsible
for its non-solution. It has to be made clear that if there is
no solution, a Greek veto on Turkey's entry to the EU cannot be
justified by Turkey's role in the Cyprus dispute.
C. MODERN TURKISH
From time to time academic students of modern
Turkey are invited by the Foreign Office to participate in briefing
sessions for, say, a new ambassador being appointed to Ankara.
These sessions seem to be appreciated and would appear to be of
some value. So, too, are the numerous discussions arranged under
the auspices of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office at Wilton
Park. In the future it will almost certainly, however, be very
difficult to find British academics knowledgeable about modern
Turkey to participate in such meetings. Six of the 10 or so specialists
in this field are either well into retirement or on the point
of retiring. There are only two or three younger academic "Turkey
watchers" and there are no academic posts to my knowledge
specific to the study of the contemporary Turkish and Turkic worlds.
This is an area which seems to merit some serious attention, not
only for the provision of expertise, but also to enable younger
generations of students to learn about the modern Turkish and
A. Turkey needs to be closely attached
to the western world, for its own sake and for the sake of the
West. It is a large, and in some respects strong, state, with
very significant military capacity, though with internal problems,
like that of religion, that closer association with the West World
certainly help it to overcome.
For the West close association with Turkey is
important for the following reasons:
1. It is close to important oil reserves
in the Caspian Basin whence oil is likely to be routed through
S.E. Turkey to Ceyhan on the Mediterranean coast.
2. It has considerable potential for influencing
events in the oil-rich and troubled Middle East, where it is a
source of support for Israel.
3. Turkey already has a Customs union the
EU and most Turkish trade is with Europe. As well as being a large
country with development potential, Turkey also has access to
developing markets close by in Central Asia and the Middle East.
4. Close association of a mainly Muslim,
but still secularist, country like Turkey with the West must help
break down the intellectual, political and social barriers now
often seen to divide the Western world from Islam. Close alliance
with the West helps Turkey remain secularist.
B. If Turkey is to be close to the West,
should this mean primarily attachment to the USA or to Europe?
For strategic, and financial reasons, Turkey must continue to
be close to the USA, whose recognition of Turkey's strategic importance
seems to be greater than that encountered in most European states.
However, Europe is more relevant, it is suggested, to Turkey's
development for the following reasons:
1. The modernisation/westernisation of Turkey's
political and administrative and legal institutions in the 19th
century was mostly influenced by European, particularly, French,
models. These institutions now need to be reformed.
2. Preparation for membership of the EU
is now obliging Turkey to make some fundamental constitutional
and legal changes in accordance with the Copenhagen Criteria,
but they are not foreign to the nature of its institutions. This
process needs to be extended to parliamentary and administrative
institutions. Membership of the EU would greatly help to bring
these changes about better than an American connection would be
able to do. However, since Turkey is a large, populous, and none
too wealthy a country, aligning it with Europe cannot be expected
to be a short and easy process. Britain could:
(i) encourage membership of the EU for Turkey
and also explore means to encourage the further reform of Turkish
political, administrative, legal and economic institutions, this
latter in co-operation with international economic bodies; and
(ii) if Turkey makes good progress towards
accession, continue to make efforts, despite Greek objections,
to engage Turkey in full membership of EU defence organisations
in order that essential NATO planning and other assets may be
C. Turkey's accession to the EU is made
more difficult by the state of Greek-Turkish relations which,
while superficially cordial at present, have to overcome the problems
of the Aegean and Cyprus.
1. The Aegean: All or nothing solutions
of the Aegean problems would not seem to be necessary. It is hoped
that negotiations to produce compromise solutions are being encouraged.
2. Cyprus: Membership of the EU by South
Cyprus (the Republic of Cyprus) will create difficult problems
for Turkey, which does not recognise the Republic of Cyprus, and
would doubtless lead to Greek and Greek Cypriot vetoes on Turkish
membership. Since Turkey did not create the Cyprus problem and
is not responsible for its solution, the British Government, as
a Guarantor Power of the original 1960 settlement under international
treaties, needs to reassess its policy and seek to influence the
UN and the EU to adopt more realistic attitudes less supportive
of the Greek Cypriots. Britain needs to bear in mind that the
British sovereign bases and other facilities in the South have
to be balanced against the importance of Turkey's strategic and
D. Iraq and the Kurdish Question: Whilst
cultural and other changes may be recommended within the framework
of EU policies with respect to Turkey, Turkish sensibilities on
the Kurdish question have to be respected. In particular the break-up
of Iraq could have undesirable consequences for Turkey, which
might in that event feel obliged to take over some Kurdish areas
outside its boundaries.
E. Future Expertise on Turkey: It is to
be hoped that some initiatives will be taken to ensure that in
the future there will be a small number of British based academics
available in modern history and the social sciences to consult
on the modern Turkish and Turkic areas.
CLEMENT H DODD
Emeritus Professor Dodd's academic career has
been in the universities of Durham, Manchester, Hull and, finally,
London (the School of Oriental and African Studies) where he established
the Modern Turkish Studies Programme. He has been a visiting professor
in the Bogazici, Bilkent and Middle East Technical universities,
He is the author of inter alia two books
on Turkish politics and government and two books on the Cyprus
issue, on which subject he has also edited two books. He is a
former president of the British Society for Middle Eastern Studies.