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Turkey changes course: Ankara looks to rebuild ties as domestic woes mount

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By Andrew Lebentz
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the virtual G20 Summit in a video conference from Istanbul, Nov. 22, 2020.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the virtual G20 Summit in a video conference from Istanbul, Nov. 22, 2020.   -   Copyright  AP/Turkish Presidency

It's a vital NATO member state and an aspiring member of the European Union. But in recent years, Turkey has taken an often aggressive stand toward its European allies -- while its ties with Moscow grew closer. Now with domestic troubles mounting, President Erdogan is once again looking West.

Famously having links to both Asia and Europe, Turkey looks in two directions for support, trade and diplomacy. But that means it can find itself at odds with its neighbours and its allies.

Turkey’s policy is shaped by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Ankara’s most influential politician since the founding of the Republic in the 1920s.

To his supporters he’s a hero who modernised the country, improved public services and remained loyal to his Islamic roots.

To his detractors, he’s presided over the collapse of the value of the lira; stifled media independence, and ruled his country with an iron fist.

And that’s caused real problems for Brussels. Ankara had been engaged in accession talks but they have long-since stalled.

Turkey is a crucial buffer in preventing migrants reaching Europe. But in their choices of allegiance in the Syrian conflict and the recent violence in Nagorno-Karabakh, Ankara’s stances have pitted NATO and the EU against the Kremlin.

Relations with Greece remain difficult. The occupied northern part of Cyprus remains an unresolved issue, and oil exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean have led to naval standoffs.

The friendships of Presidential sons-in-law have kept Turkey and the United States proximal on one level, but the change in administration is leaving Ankara without a door to the Oval Office.

The result? Policy shifts. There’ve been attempts to stabilise the currency, attempts to resolve international disputes and even an acceptance of a Biden victory.

Relationships with the EU remain strained, but both sides will be hoping for an imminent reset.