ANKARA: After President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was reelected in late May, there is renewed attention on Turkiye’s foreign policy due to the appointment of Hakan Fidan as the new foreign minister.
As Turkey’s diplomatic leadership goes through a transition, people are curious to see what path the country will follow under Fidan’s guidance.
Many people believe that not much will change, except that Turkey might become more assertive in its approach. This could involve focusing on efforts to normalize relations and adopting a foreign policy approach that prioritizes security. This belief is based on the fact that Fidan, who has studied the role of intelligence in foreign policy, is now in a position of influence.
The minister, who is 55 years old, is a very influential person in Turkiye. They held the position of chief of intelligence from 2010 to 2023 and played a significant role in organizing various reconciliation efforts with Middle Eastern countries like Syria, Israel, and Egypt.
Fidan is well-known for his exceptional negotiation skills. He has actively participated in important meetings where he demonstrated his talent for handling complex geopolitical matters and understanding the internal dynamics of other countries.
Fidan had multiple meetings with the Syrian intelligence chief to prepare for political discussions between Damascus and Ankara in 2022. These meetings aimed to establish a foundation for improving relations with the Assad regime and addressing security issues concerning the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia. Turkey considers the YPG to be the same as the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party.
Fidan has a lot of experience in tough negotiations, but he has also done some really important work in other areas. He used to be in charge of the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency, which is the organization that helps Turkey provide aid to other countries. Fidan did a great job of increasing Turkey’s influence by giving support for things like building infrastructure and helping with humanitarian issues in places like the Balkans, Middle East, Africa, and Central Asia.
He also gained experience in nuclear negotiations involving Iran during his previous role as Turkiye’s representative at the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Many people see Fidan’s appointment as a sign that Ankara wants to become more involved in regional and global affairs.
Fidan, in his role as foreign minister, will have the task of engaging in negotiations with Western powers on various complex matters. These include discussions about Sweden’s potential NATO membership and the delivery of F-16 fighter jets from the United States.
Fidan had a meeting with NATO’s top official Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels on Thursday. Ankara is urging Sweden to align with the recent legal amendments on anti-terror law that Turkey has proposed. These amendments would enable Swedish authorities to prosecute individuals who support terrorist groups.
Sweden has recently made some legal changes and lifted restrictions on the defense industry in relation to Turkiye. “We should now implement those legal changes,” Fidan said.
It is still unclear whether Washington will give its approval for the sale of F-16s in exchange for Turkey agreeing to Sweden’s ascension. A group of senators, from both sides of the political spectrum, informed President Joe Biden earlier this year that they believe Congress should hold off on considering the sale until Turkiye officially approves Sweden’s NATO membership.
Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, the Ankara office director of the German Marshall Fund of the US, mentions that Fidan is highly regarded both in Washington and in European capitals. “He mentioned that this is a positive aspect as he begins his role as the foreign minister,” he shared with Arab News.
Fidan recently had a meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in London. During the meeting, Blinken referred to Fidan as a “colleague of many years.” During their meeting, they discussed the situation in Ukraine and NATO’s expansion as the main topics.
Experts believe that there won’t be any significant changes in Turkey’s foreign policy. They expect Fidan to prioritize maintaining the current approach rather than making major shifts.
Fidan, like his predecessor Cavusoglu, is Erdogan’s foreign minister. He will carry out foreign policy according to the political instructions given by the president. He was very active in foreign policy as the head of Turkish intelligence and played a role in most key policy areas,” Unluhisarcikli said.
However, given the ongoing depreciation of the Turkish lira and soaring inflation rates, Turkish foreign policy is likely to be closely tied to the country’s economic well-being, which relies heavily on foreign currency.
I believe there will be changes in Turkish foreign policy in the near future. According to Unluhisarcikli, it is important for Turkey to prioritize financing the current account deficit. This could potentially result in Turkey seeking to improve its relations with Western allies.
He also mentioned that, for the time being, receiving help from Russia and the Gulf could help with the deficit. However, it will be important to have access to Western financial markets in the future.
President Erdogan is planning to visit Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the UAE from July 17-19 in order to strengthen Turkiye’s struggling economy. According to Reuters, it is anticipated that he will be looking to secure direct investments from Gulf countries. These investments are expected to start at around $10 billion and could potentially increase to $30 billion. The focus of these investments will primarily be in the energy, infrastructure, and defense sectors.
According to independent policy analyst Fuad Shahbazov, it seems that Fidan might be more open to flexibility compared to Cavusoglu.
Shahbazov explained that while Cavusoglu prioritized diplomatic etiquette and avoiding harsh rhetoric, Fidan is a close ally of President Erdogan and supports his conservative and pragmatic foreign policy. Fidan is willing to sacrifice partnerships with certain Western countries in order to uphold this policy.
Shahbazov recognizes that Fidan may have limited experience with Western and Central Asian networks, but he doesn’t think it will be a problem.
Shahbazov concluded that he doesn’t anticipate any sudden changes in the diplomatic relationships between Egypt, Israel, and the person in charge of the process. He believes that this person, being the mastermind behind it, will likely continue to move forward with it without any major reversals.
The presidents of Turkey and Egypt are scheduled to meet on July 27 in Turkey.