GRM 2010 GRM 2011

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Turkey-Iran Relations and the GCC States
Paper Proposal Text :
Turkey\'s leadership role in the Middle East has significantly increased during Erdogan\'s tenure, in spite of the EU membership process. In fact, Turkey is finally playing an important regional leadership role in the Middle East, one that previous governments and bureaucratic structures prevented it from doing in the past. Prior to the Erdogan government, Turkey took a rather isolated approach in its foreign policy towards the Middle East, and did not develop strong ties with its neighbors, claiming to be the sole country of stability in a region of tyrants and disorder. This changed when AKP came to power; Turkey started playing a new proactive role in Middle East politics by reaching out to Israel and Syria, aiming to build bridges in Israeli-Syrian relations. Turkey took an active role in mediating during the Lebanese-Israeli crisis in 2006, and it even reached out to Hamas.
A close look at Turkey’s relations with Iran indicates that, although the two countries have always maintained a rather good relationship, the political and economic ties between the countries strengthened considerably after AKP came to power. Turkey has been actively involved in increasing diplomatic, trade and political relations with Iran. In terms of trade, Turkey has become Iran’s 4th import partner in 2011, while in 2001 it used to be Iran’s 20th partner in import.
More importantly, in recent years, Turkey has pursued policies in reaching out to Iran to begin a dialogue over different issues of conflict such as Iran’s Nuclear Negotiations. In fact, Turkey was the only country in the region that engaged with Iran in a proactive and meaningful way in terms of trade and economic interdependence, as well as taking trust building measures and cooperation in Iraq. This culminated when Erdogan offered to join Brazil in serving as a mediator between Iran and the Obama administration. In recent years, the countries have experienced tensions on Syria and U.S.-Iran relations and it remains to be seen how they overcome these challenges.
In short, Turkey has been playing a proactive leadership role in its foreign affairs in the Middle East, in the absence of other big powers with the ability to do so successfully. In this process, Turkey has developed its ties with Iran, to reach its maximum power and influence within the region. Therefore, this paper explores different aspects of Turkey’s leadership, exercised in reorienting Turkish foreign policy toward Iran in greater depth. It also analyzes the degree to which it has been successful in developing its ties with Iran in trade, security, conflict resolution and cooperation. Finally, the paper explores the implications of Turkey-Iran relations for Gulf States and other regional countries such as Iraq.