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Deciphering Ankara's Middle East policy

A mix of traditional Turkish fears and the Justice and Development Party's political ambitions has come to shape Turkey’s regional policies, especially in Syria and Iraq.
A banner depicting Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan is seen during the Extraordinary Congress of the ruling AK Party (AKP) to choose the new leader of the party, in Ankara, Turkey May 22, 2016. REUTERS/Umit Bektas - RTSFD8J

“No issue in the Middle East can be discussed without Turkey.” So spoke Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in March 2013 as he boasted how the Justice and Development Party (AKP) had transformed Turkey from a country that “sought help from others 10 years ago” to a country that leads “an active foreign policy” and sees “the whole world” as the domain of its diplomacy.

More recently, on Oct. 22, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan grumbled about how the 1923 Lausanne Treaty, which led to the creation of modern Turkey on the ashes of the Ottoman Empire, “shrank our lands to 780,000 square kilometers [480,000 square miles] from 2.5 million square kilometers [1.5 million square miles] in 1914.” Things had to change, according to Erdogan. “Those who have kept Turkey confined to this vicious circle since 1923 have sought to make us forget the millennium-old memory of our lands.” he said. “We can’t go on with the psychology of 1923 in 2016. We can’t take pride in having preserved our 1923 posture while everything in the world has been changing since we established the republic. We have to abandon the notion of ‘defense lines’ in protecting the republic. … We have to resolve the Mosul issue at Mosul.”

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