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Armenia, Azerbaijan, Caucasus, Energy Diplomacy, International Relations, Middle East, Pipeline, Russia, Turkey

Plan – B: RESET of the “Zero Problems with Neighbors” Principle


On 22 March 2013, official sources from Turkish Prime Minister’s Office confirmed that Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu expressed Israel’s apology for Mavi Marmara case (including for the death of nine Turks) in Gaza-bound flotilla in 2010.Israeli PM, Benjamin Netanyahu apologized during his phone meeting with Turkish PM, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, while two sides agreed on normalization of relations between two countries, including returning the ambassadors and to work on improving the humanitarian situation in the Palestine. In his turn, PM, Erdogan also accepted Israel’s apology on behalf of Turkey. [Aljazeera].

Israeli side also expressed his willingness to provide compensation (humanitarian fund) for the relatives of nine Turks died during Mavi Marmara case. [Today’s Zaman] Apology came directly following the three-day visit of U.S. President, Barack Obama to Israel. Of course, Palestine and Marmara matters were just the one side of medallion. Another side of medallion is commented and analyzed differently.

Alon Ben-Meir (Professor at the Center for Global Affairs at New York University) says that, “…Obama had planned to raise the issue [during his visit] and Netanyahu was expecting it. They had been having ongoing private discussions, and Erdogan was expecting the call… Although Netanyahu had wanted to issue a similar apology several months ago, both Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak opposed it.”

Actually, Israeli side had stated his regrets for Mavi Marmara case time after time. However, the official Twitter account of Turkish MFA says (on behalf of Ahmet Davutoglu) that, “The difference between ‘Regret’ and ‘Apologize’ was the red line for us.” Visit of Obama broke the three-years-long stereotype.

The one, who is following the prominent and latest issues in the Middle East, can easily understand the other side of medallion without any sharp analysis. Following the Mavi Marmara case Turkey vetoed Israel to participate at NATO-led programs and Individual Partnership Plan (IPI), including NATO’s Chicago Summit in 2012. However, several weeks ago, Turkey cancelled the veto on the participation of the Israel Defense Forces in NATO-led exercises and defense-related activities in exchange for the NATO’s decision to deploy Patriot missile batteries on the Turkey’s border with Syria.

On the other side, normalization of relations with Turkey will enable Israel to raise the ‘Blue Stream II’ natural gas pipeline project question, which failed because of ‘Mavi Marmara’ case in 2010. Notwithstanding project was suggested and strongly supported by Russia, Kremlin could not oppose one of its long-years partner and strong neighbor. Consequently, Russia supported Turkey’s decision not to further proceed on negotiations for ‘Blue Stream II’ pipeline project. Israel’s second ‘energy joker’ might be the normalization of energy disputes (exploration and drilling works in sea bed) in Mediterranean Sea on disputed sea areas with Turkey.

From the other hand, U.S. and Israel are convinced by Azerbaijani authority that the territories of Azerbaijan will not be used against its neighbors (notably Iran) for the possible attack by third country (notably U.S. or Israel) backing to the Military Doctrine of the Republic of Azerbaijan (Article 29). Therefore, U.S. found the only way to step forward for normalization of Turkish-Israeli relations, as there is hope that Turkey’s territory can be used for Israel’s possible military operations.

Recently, the jailed head of Kurdish rebels, Abdullah Ocalan (so-called APO) called for a ceasefire after years of skirmish with Turkey. Ocalan urged the Kurdish fighters of PKK to withdraw from Turkish territories in his message during Kurdish New Year celebration. He says, “We have sacrificed decades for [the Kurds] and have paid a big price. Now it is time for our armed units to move across the border [to northern Iraq].” [BBC – New Europe] BBC also says that, “Ocalan and PM, Erdogan are talking via intermediaries”.

During such a short-term such surprising news emerged. Wait! That is not the all. The other surprising news is announced by Armenian media on launching of Yerevan-Van flights. This gives a message of Turkish desire for rapprochement process with Armenia again, while Turkish President, Abdullah Gul congratulated the re-elected Armenian President, Serzh Sarksyan. Zaur Shiriyev (Editor-in-Chief for Caucasus International Journal) states in his latest column that, “Even after the failure of the Zurich Protocols, President Gul declared that Turkey will continue ‘silent diplomacy’ with Armenia — meaning behind closed doors.” From the other side, Turkey proposed to Armenia the participation in Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway project through the re-opening of Turkish-Armenian railway.

On 21 March 2013, Foreign Policy magazine published the article of Turkish FM, Ahmet Davutoglu, titled “Zero Problems in a New Era” in which Davutoglu talks about the understandings on failure of Turkey’s ‘Zero Problem Policy’, as he rejects these understandings. He says that, “…Our ‘zero problem with neighbors’ principle remains alive… and Turkey was plagued by chronic foreign-policy disputes with nearly all of its neighbors — disputes that served as tremendous barriers to the normalization of regional relations… Our key principles, together with the ‘zero problems’ policy, have not failed — nor have they been rejected. Instead, they continue to guide our foreign policy in our neighborhood…”

All those above mentioned factors shows that Turkey is pursuing the ‘reset policy’ for its ‘Zero Problems with Neighbors’ principle through ‘A Multidimensional Foreign Policy’ by the means of ‘Rhythmic Diplomacy’ or maybe ‘Silent Diplomacy’, as it means: PKK = OK!; Israel = OK!; Armenia = “Kind of OK”!; And remained Syria. What to do with Syria? This question will be responded by new strategic game in the Middle East. To sum up, “Target is not Syria, but is Iran”.


Ahmet Davutoglu, “Zero Problems in a New Era”, 21 March 2013, Foreign Policy Magazine, http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/03/21/zero_problems_in_a_new_era_turkey
Alexander Murinson, “A below the Radar Decision: Turkey has Agreed to Israel’s Participation in NATO Operations in Exchange for”, Strategic Outlook, 04 February 2013, http://www.strategicoutlook.org/middle-east/news-a-below-the-radar-decision–turkey-has-agreed-to-israels-participation-in-nato-operations-in-exchange-for-.html#.UUBf631IrYA.twitter
Zaur Shiriyev, “Yerevan-Van flight: a new route to controversy?”, Today’s Zaman, 20 march 2013, http://www.todayszaman.com/columnistDetail_getNewsById.action?newsId=310258#.UUnMGY8ko4A.twitter
“Israel PM ‘apologises’ for flotilla incident”, Aljazeera, 22 March 2013, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2013/03/201332215412102859.html
“Turkey, Israel make US-brokered peace after Mavi Marmara apology”, Today’s Zaman, 22 March 2013, http://www.todayszaman.com/newsDetail_getNewsById.action?newsId=310440
“Turkey Kurds: PKK chief Ocalan calls for ceasefire”, BBC New Europe, 21 March 2013, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-21874427
Stewart Ain , “Israel Apologizes To Turkey For 2010 Flotilla Incident”, The Jewish Week, 22 March 2013, http://www.thejewishweek.com/news/breaking-news/israel-apologizes-turkey-2010-flotilla-incident

Ilgar Gurbanov

Analyst on Russian and Energy Affairs

‘Strategic Outlook’ Research Organization

You can reach original article at Strategic Outlook



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