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How Erdogan’s reelection will shift Turkey's foreign policy goals

Erdogan’s desire to build a legacy as an above-party national leader requires him to sustain and nurture the notion of a “strong Turkey” in foreign policy.
Flags fly over Taksim Square showing Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and CHP presidential candidate, Kemal Kilicdaroglu on May 13, 2023 in Istanbul, Turkey. On May 14th, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will face his biggest electoral test as the country goes to the polls in the country's general election. Erdogan has been in power for more than two decades -- first as prime minister, then as president -- but his popularity has recently taken a hit due to Turkey's ongoing economic crisis and his gover
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Having won Sunday’s runoff vote, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will extend his rule into a third decade with piles of foreign policy issues on his plate. The strategy that won him reelection and his desire to build a legacy will both require Erdogan to sustain and nurture the notion of a “strong Turkey” in foreign policy.

Normalization with Syria is the thorniest dossier, calling for drastic decisions. The return of the Syrian refugees — either forcibly or voluntarily — was a top issue on the campaign trails. Any progress there depends on not only reconciliation with Damascus but also the provision of living spaces to the returnees. A Turkish-Syrian deal alone cannot smooth the way for reconstruction. US and European objections will have to be overcome as well. 

Earlier this month, Turkey and Syria agreed to continue dialogue toward normalization at a four-way meeting in Moscow involving Russia and Iran. Nevertheless, Damascus maintains that the withdrawal of Turkish forces from Syria is a precondition for any meeting between the two countries’ leaders. 

No immediate withdrawal from Syria

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