Between political survival and regional power: the justice and development party and Cyprus, 2002–2017

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Cyprus has featured prominently on Turkey’s foreign policy agenda in recent years. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has weaved this long-standing issue into a broader narrative of ‘geographical imagination’. Cyprus policy has thus reflected the AKP’s socio-political vision of a ‘Yeni Türkiye’ (New Turkey), first articulated nearly a decade ago, in which well-entrenched narratives about national identity and the Cyprus conflict are central. Against this backdrop, Cyprus has been leveraged in the twin interests of AKP survival (boosting incumbency through nationalist appeals) and Turkey’s regional power aspirations. The present article offers a timely survey of Turkey’s Cyprus policy over a 15-year period from 2002 (when the AKP rose to power) until the failure of the negotiation talks on Cyprus in Crans-Montana, Switzerland in July 2017. In so doing, the article charts the important continuities as well as the key markers of transition in Ankara’s policy towards Cyprus under the AKP.

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... Failure to agree led to the collapse of the negotiations in Crans Montana, Switzerland, in summer 2017. A fair share of responsibility for the negotiation deadlock has been analysed elsewhere (Christofis and Logotheti 2021;Heraclides 2021), but what is of equal importance here is the new realities presented not only for Cyprus but also Greek-Turkish relations writ large. ...
Turkish foreign policy has experienced a profound transformation in the nearly two decades since the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP) came to power. In its first decade (2002–2011), the AKP government sought to consolidate, promote, and implement its agenda through the use of soft power while also aligning Turkey with the West and EU conditionality. However, since 2011 domestic and international developments have led Ankara to pursue a ‘logic of strategic autonomy.’ Since the failed coup attempt in July 2016 – which reinforced a trend towards resecuritization in Turkish foreign policy – relations with the EU in general and Greece, in particular, have grown more complicated, leading to a militarized and increasingly tense situation in the region. Against this backdrop, the present article analyses the rekindling of the ‘Aegean Cold War’ since 2016, focusing principally on the Aegean, Cyprus, and the refugee crisis and the EU’s ambivalent policy towards Turkey and Greek–Turkish relations in general.
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The key argument of this article is that in the aftermath of the failure of the Annan Plan, Turkey assumed the role of the ‘IMF of northern Cyprus’, aiming to effect a deeper transformation in the economy and politics of the Turkish Cypriot community. Turkey imposed economic programmes that included austerity measures and the privatisation of state owned enterprises in order to tame the ‘cumbersome’ state in the north of Cyprus. Furthermore, AKP (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi [Justice and Development Party]) opted for a strategy that defines northern Cyprus as an investment area. As a result of the deliberate attempts of the AKP government, Turkish capital has significantly increased its presence in state enterprises through privatisation along with infrastructure, education, construction and tourism sectors and commercial centres. The paper argues for an analysis that would locate this neoliberal restructuring in Cyprus in a global context as well as grasping the peculiarity of the state formation and the actual agency of local dynamics in the north of Cyprus.
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Democracy means much more than elections and institutions. At its most basic level, it is predicated on the diffusion of power within government and society. In a democratic regime, power is shared among different branches to ensure that no one branch becomes too powerful. Checks and balances are necessary to prevent the accumulation of power and to ensure healthy competition among the legislative and executive branches and an independent judiciary. In this context, the government is accustomed to the presence of an opposition and government leaders are conscious that they enjoy a temporary hold on power. However, a democracy also requires that power be distributed among civil society, the media, trade unions and other institutions to ensure that they are independent of state control. In this context, all ethnic and religious groups, genders or social classes are included in political life because democracy requires all members of society to have individual and political rights and it requires the protection of those rights (Haass, 2003, pp. 139–140).
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Turkish politics is complex and, at times, comes close to being bizarre. When the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi [AKP]) came to power it embarked on ambitious economic and political reforms that at last promised to bring embedded democracy to Turkey. Yet, since 2007, most of the initial reforms have regressed, deepening societal cleavages that threaten the stability of the country, and a popularly elected president threatens to change the parliamentary democratic system with an autocratic presidential order. While the AKP can celebrate in its unprecedented four election victories since 2002, its recent actions should give concern to anyone who cares about the future of Turkey.
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The argument of this paper is that the new foreign policy orientation of Turkey under the AKP (Justice and Development Party) government is a constitutive component of a new nationalist project, constructed and carried out by the AKP over the last decade. The article expounds the ways in which the AKP has reformulated the notions of nation, national history, homeland and national interest and demonstrates the role foreign policy has played in this reformulation. Our point of departure will be the patterns we have observed in the statements and political practices of the AKP government and its officials, particularly the incumbent minister of foreign affairs Ahmet Davutoğlu, whose book, Strategic Depth, presents a more systematic explanation of the major principles and assertions of AKP nationalism and foreign policy. We will also argue that after the Gezi protests in June 2013 this new conception of nation and nationalism has faced with a deep crisis, which has also exacerbated the problem of pursuing an ambitious foreign policy strategy in international arena.
Some scholars argue that Turkish foreign policy has undergone a structural change since 2002. This shift in Turkey’s identity is primarily linked to the ascendancy of the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi – AKP) and its proactive foreign policy towards Turkey’s eastern neighbourhood. The change in Turkey’s identity and foreign policy is mostly intertwined with the Islamist identity embraced by the AKP, which can be traced back to the National Vision Movement (Milli Görüş Hareketi). This article aims to analyse what are said to be ‘newly’ established preferences in AKP identity and its reflections in Turkey’s foreign policy, particularly since 2009/2010. The main argument is that the emergence of this new ideological discourse has had immediate reflections on Turkey’s relationship with North Cyprus.
This article examines the change and continuity in the Turkish policy toward Cyprus since the de facto partition of the island in 1974. The exploration of the relationship between Turkish nationalism and foreign policy toward Cyprus suggests that the language of Turkish nationalism regarding the Cyprus question has been far from monotonous. It is shown that the period coinciding with the coming of the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP) in 2002 in particular was a critical juncture which opened up the discursive space for the re-articulation of the ‘Cyprus problem’, legitimising efforts in relation to reunification. Yet the partial nature of the discursive shift and the absence of a complete paradigmatic change—explained here with reference to structural and historical features of the Cyprus problem as well as the contingent nature of the European Union (EU) membership prospects—has meant the return of the well-entrenched narratives on the conflict and national identity. Also revealing the ways in which Turkish Cypriots have responded to such changes in policy and rhetoric from Ankara, the paper aims to complement existing accounts of trans-border nationalism in conflict and post-conflict settings.
The chapter aims to examine the reasons why those energy discoveries have failed to help bring peace to Cyprus. Drawing on Regional Security Complex Theory and Securitization Theory , it argues that the Eastern Mediterranean's peculiar regional characteristics, particularly those of Turkey, have created the political conditions for the securitization of these energy discoveries and their proposed export routes.
This article concerns Turkey’s Cyprus policy in the fast transforming geopolitics of the Eastern Mediterranean. It argues that dramatic changes in the Eastern Mediterranean with the Arab Spring and the discovery of natural gas reserves in the region paved way for a hard power strategy on Cyprus. Both have shaken the traditional alliance structures and created an unprecedented level of economic opportunities, leading Turkey to reformulate its Cyprus policy. Turkey’s disappointment regarding EU accession prepared the ground for this radical shift in Turkey’s policy.
This chapter examines the factors that shape and transform Turkey’s Cyprus policy by utilizing the insights of an international political economy perspective. The core of the determinants of changing Turkey’s Cyprus policy is to be found in the Turkey-European Union (EU) relations and the changing circumstances for the EU project of Turkey. It will be argued that behind Turkey’s changing Cyprus policy lie the shifting preferences of the “power bloc”1 in which big bourgeoisie is hegemonic but not without contradictions.
The Cyprus issue has been studied mainly with respect to state‐centered assumptions that concentrate on the power struggle in the Eastern Mediterranean. Perspectives integrating aspects of social theory beyond high politics have only recently been a focus of study in the case of Cyprus. This study emphasizes the necessity of developing a new methodological framework and employing new conceptual tools with the help of the theoretical advances in comparative sociopolitical analysis. In this context, studying the Cyprus problem within a framework defined by Europeanization with respect to the changes in national and international conditions in different periods allows a comparative analysis of the transformations in the positions of traditional and social and economic actors towards solving the problem.
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