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Davutoglu and the policy of "zero problems with neighbours"

Ahmet Davutoğlu

Ahmet Davutoğlu, dubbed "the Turkish Kissinger" by former US ambassador Mark Parris, is widely credited with having provided the intellectual framework for Turkey's foreign policy under the current Justice and Development Party (AKP) government. Born in the conservative Anatolian city of Konya, Davutoğlu graduated from a German international school in Istanbul and obtained a PhD from Bogazici University. He then went on to teach political science at the International Islamic University in Malaysia, before returning to chair the International Relations department at Beykent University.

In 2001, Davutoğlu authored "Strategic Depth" (Stratejik derinlik: Türkiye'nin uluslararası konumu), as he was about to move from academia into a job as chief foreign policy advisor to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. A quick read through the AKP's 2002 political programme – or through President Abdulah Gul's and the prime minister's foreign policy speeches – shows that their authors kept a copy of "Strategic Depth" within reach.

"Strategic Depth"

In Davutoğlu's book the arguments in favour of a renewed relationship between Turkey and it near-abroad are laid out in full. During the Cold War, Turkey's geopolitical influence was used as a trump of the Western Block, writes Davutoğlu. After the fall of the USSR it was necessary to re-interpret Turkey's geopolitical role, "overcoming the strategy of conserving the status quo. […] In this understanding Turkey has to redefine its position […] and gain a new understanding within the international framework." Turkey's new geopolitical position, he argues, "has to be seen as a means of gradually opening up to the world and transforming regional into global influence:"

"In fact, Turkey is both a European and Asian, Balkan and Caucasus, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean country."

Photo: Emil Sanamyan (Armenian Reporter)

Davutoğlu's book offers a comprehensive articulation of what was to become the AKP government's "zero problems with neighbours" doctrine.

"It is impossible for a country experiencing constant crises with neighbouring states to produce a regional and global foreign policy […] Relations with these countries have to be detached from the long and difficult process involving polities and bureaucrats. A broader basis, focused largely on intra society relations, including economic and cultural elements, must be found. […] A comprehensive peace plan and a package to develop economic and cultural relations have to be put into place simultaneously to overcome security crises with the closest neighbours."

"Particularly in our region, where authoritarian regimes are the norm, improving transport possibilities, extending cross-border trade, increasing cultural exchange programs, and facilitating labour and capital movement […] will help overcome problems stemming from the role of the central elites."

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