Turkish Foreign Policy After Davutoglu: Continuity or Rupture



The essay looks into the facets of diplomatic continuity and discontinuity following the departure of Ahmet Davutoglu from power. The Turkey’s foreign policy (TFP) was developed by Davutoglu. Turkish has been having major conflicts with various nations. However, it had been in a position of restoring peace with countries such as Israel and Russia and is willing to do the same with Egypt. Through such advances, it is believed that TFP is under recalibration due to the exit of Davutoglu from a high rank of politics and diplomacy in Turkey. We may say there has been reorientation of TFP but it should not be linked to the departure of the Turkish Prime Minister.  Therefore, the paper argues that there has been a continuation of the Turkish foreign policy even after the departure of Davutoglu.


In the past six years, there was a disagreement between Turkey and Israel, which came to an end in June, 2016. Such disagreement came to exist after the Israel commandos killed ten Turks. They were among the people in Mavi Marmara ship owned by the Turkey that assisted the flotilla in breaking the Gaza blockage in May, 2010. The Prime Ministers from both countries, Binali Yildirim and Binyamin Netanyahu from Turkey and Israel respectively, were engage in addressing the press, seeing the significance of the agreement in promoting stability in the Middle East. Furthermore, the agreement was important in promoting security and economic development in the two countries. The Palestinians to some extent had benefited from the deal to limit the uprising of any domestic criticisms. The Turkey had been updating the Palestinians concerning the deal till the time it was approved. Turkish has always been guided by the principles of Turkey’s foreign policy (TFP). During the republican era the policy was informed by the security essentials of Cold war and the disasters that led to the fall of Soviet Union during the 1990s. The influences together with the nation’s republican elites crafted the identity of Turkey in line with militant nationalism, western secularism and western orientation. Turkey viewed its neighbors through security lens, becoming prone to threats of various types and feeling surrounded by a hostile environment . The policy had been the core of Turkish government until the resignation of Ahmet Davutoglu, former Prime Minister. There has been debate concerning the departure of Davutoglu having affected the position of Turkish foreign policy. The departure of Davutoglu led to either the continuation of the Turkish foreign policy, with the policy implementing the principles left by Davutoglu or undergoing radical changes to fit the needs of the current government. Therefore, the essay examined the facets of the continuity or discontinuity of Turkish foreign policy after the exit of Ahmet Davutoglu from power.

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Problem Statement 

After the 2014 election, it is believed that President Erdogan took control of the foreign policy. He was anxious to incorporate his personal requirements in the policy despite the great relationship that Davutoglu had with many foreign leaders. First, the president put himself as the key decision maker in TFP resulting to limited powers for Davutoglu, who was the current formulator and implementer of the foreign policy. The president began creating personal relationship with global leaders. He involved them in diplomatic discussions through daily phone calls and continuous foreign visits. Second, the president developed a direct link between his domestic plan and foreign policy. His domestic nationalist-conservative dialogue formed the foundation for foreign relationships, which made it easier to involve reactionary leaders in quest of foreign policy, and proved difficult in forming a sustainable relation with the foreign nations. Third, the personal views of the president greatly define the direction of foreign relations despite his hardheaded inclinations. Such circumstances were clear in the relations with Egypt’s Sisi government and the unconditional rejection in agreement with Assad regime. As much as it provided the component of managerial stability to TFP, it led to high fluidity as foreign decisions became highly dependent on the president’s individual conditions with western leaders. After the exit of Davutoglu, the Yildirim government that took over in May, 2016, seemed to be willing to recalibrate with a practical understanding of foreign policy driven by the need to limit the number of enemies and expanding friends’ base. The move had not much different than “zero problems”, it moved to limit the disagreement of Turkey in relation to nations such as Syria, Israel, Iraq and Russia under essentials of a de facto presidential foreign policy.

Turkey might have been on a complete reset mode after June 2016. There have been developments that are in line with recent course of TFP, which has developed to maintain the ties with old enemies. There have been plans lined by fresh foreign policy dialogue, currently adopted among political leaders of Turkey. It stresses on the need to increasing friendship and conciliating enemies. Despite the deal between Israel and Turkey taking place lately, the two nations have a long history of difficult diplomatic activities in the past, especially in the former’s file. However, the policies went known publicly following the exit of their key architect in the past decade and the former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.  The departure of the Prime Minister was followed by the demotion of most of his foreign policy aids. Such occurrences signify that TFP is under recalibration following the exit of Davutoglu and his team from the top rank of the politics and diplomacy of Turkey. There has been reorientation of TFP; however, it should not be linked to the exit of the former Prime Minster and the chairman of AK Party. Assuming the exit of Davutoglu has affected the position of TFP would misinterpret the reason for recalibration of the foreign policy resulting to misunderstanding of the projections of TFP.


The Turkish case is a widely debated topic globally through academic research and media, thus not advisable to rely on one set of data. The application of various methods of data collection is significance in social sciences and it gives the researcher a chance to come up with an extensive emperical description of the subject in the study, with concentration on the collected information required to understand the causes and impacts within a minimal error. However, for the essay, the information used in the essay is from secondary data. The paper utilized sources from Books and scholarly articles. The books used for the completion of the paper were those written by both Turkish and non-Turkish authors. The books were mainly collected from electronic libraries such as World Cat. Furthermore, journal articles utilized in the paper assist in bringing about the current critical analysis and hot topics. The paper relies on various critical journals entailing Turkish politics and foreign policy including European journal of Turkish studies, Foreign policy journal and Turkish journal of international Relations. Moreover, the paper uses international newspapers and various websites to retrieve information including Aljazeera, CNN, BBC and Turkey Zaman. The newspapers contributed highly for data used in the paper, despite being considered biased in supporting agendas of other political groups while being against others. The website sources included government papers and documents found in official websites of EU and Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The scholarly articles and newspapers used in the paper are the ones published between 2014 and 2018. Various key words were useful in search engine of the database including Turkish foreign policy, International relation theory, and Davutoglu doctrine, recalibration of Turkish foreign policy, Kurdish issue among other terms. 

Research Questions 

To complete the paper, there is need to provide and answer to certain questions. The questions are linked to the issue of Turkish Foreign Policy. Such questions are the ones forming the foundation of the thesis of the paper. The paper provides an answer to the following questions:

  1. Did the Turkish Foreign Policy position maintained following the exit of Ahmet Davutoglu?
  2. Was the departure of Davutoglu the split of Turkish Foreign Policy?
  3. Have there been any changes in Davutoglu doctrine implementation? 


The paper tries to test a positive hypothesis that despite Davutoglu departure, the government taking over has been continuing with Turkish foreign policy, implementing the principles that were initiated by the former Prime Minister.

Theory of International Relation 

The theory applied in the paper is the theory of realism in international relations. The theory is founded on the assumption that the international system is naturally uncontrollable and relations are anarchic due to key actors who are continuously fighting for power and security. Furthermore, the theory assumes that states are the major actors of international politics. The international relations’ lawless is linked to lack of supranational authority that would control the behaviors of the states through law enforcement. On the other hand, states need power to maintain self-preservation. The behaviors of the states are directed towards maintaining their self-interest. Accumulation of power does not give room to moderation. A state will either have or lack power. The theory is applicable in the paper since on the analysis of the situation of Turkey, we realize that there has been a conflict between the Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu and President Erdogan. It is clear that the president brought in personal impression on foreign policy brining out the image of being the owner and the key controller of TFP, despite Davutoglu’s notion of foreign policy being considered to be exclusive and discrete order, creating state. It limited the functions of the Prime Minister in having a say on the control of TFP, prompting his resignation. We can argue that Davutoglu and Erdogan have been in disagreement on who to control the state affairs. They could not agree on various decisions making the state difficult to manage resulting to one of them stepping down. The same concept is explained in theory of realism where two parties are fighting for power and security of the state. 

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Analyses and Findings 

Turkey’s mode of development to gain wide reputation of international affairs was already reexamined by the AK Party since taking power in 2002. However, the party had maintained its political Islam’s vision of figuring out an outstanding role for Turkey globally through the development of closer ties with other Muslims in the world. AK party got rid of the Refah Party’s quest for the formation of a similar international system that is further Islamic. However, it had decided to form a role that is highly influential within the current international system. It is the reason for the opposing of the recent international injustices by Erdogan. He does not become an issue to the proposed Judeo-Christian principles that strengthen the current international system. He is different from Erbakan, who saw no future acknowledgement of Turkey’s historical grandeur within the recent international system. Erbakan wanted to form a parallel international system, strengthened by the principles of the Islamic society. The AK Party criticizes the system for creating post-World War 2 settlement and for continued detachment from the present reality. Referring to the “world being greater than five” by Erdogan was a reference to the dominant position taken by the five members in the United Nation Security Council (UNSC) within the International system. Therefore, we may see Davutoglu to have shown his impressive vision more powerfully and incorporated it into to more refined frameworks. Though, TFP was never the individual product of Davutoglu’s vision but a shared vision of the political Islam of Turkey. President Erdogan was a diehard believer and supporter of the major part of the foreign policy vision and actions of Davutoglu.

The Turkish foreign policy has been experiencing change and recalibration, which is expected to go on. The events have nothing to do with the exit of Davutoglu. Davutoglu was a vast figure when considering his influence in readdressing TFP. He had a large vision for the position of Turkey in the international systems. He had faith in his country’s history, human resources and capital to have been destined to play a huge role when it comes to international affairs. He placed the idea within complicated theoretical frameworks. Whoever, he was never alone during the formulation of such great role for Turkey in the global affairs. Actually, determined foreign policy plan had always been the key trademark of political Islam in Turkey. It aimed at making Turkey take over a highly active function. The plan of the Islamist foreign policy is more determined as compared to the past policies undertaken by the keener and position quo-abiding secularist Kemalist development. The exit of the Ahmet Davutoglu gives the government a discursive expediency to promote the recalibration to domestic and international levels. In fact it results from dramatic relative and structural adjustments within the domestic or international political platform. The adjustments entail the devastating of uprisings in the Arab world, where party has put great political capital and hope and the development of fresh domestic drawbacks, especially due to deterioration of the peaceful procedure of Kurdish, with the return of the same issue to conflict with the domestic implications. 

The Kurdish issue has been a threat to the Turkish government. Turkey should solve such issue and limit the growing disagreement between the Islamist and secularist aspects of the Turkish society. Davutoglu had acknowledged the solution of both conflicts to be founded on liberal principles. The strategic potential of Turkey could only be achieved following the formation of a fair and everlasting solution to the Kurdish issue that is believed to promote the rights of Kurdish minority in Turkey, with achievement of a liberal consensus when it comes to secularisms issue within various sectors of the Turkish society. The Kurdish disagreement that lasted for over thirty years caused the lives of 30,000 people and led to the separation of the society, causing pressure on the Turkish economic development within greater parts of eastern and southeastern Turkey. The ability of Turkey of scheme faced limitations from the externalities of the Syrian Crisis in form of aspects such as growing number of refuges, discrimination and militancy of PKK. Furthermore, Turkey’s well-known rival, Iran seemed to have been advantaged from the regional chaos. It expanded its influence base at the expense of the major nations within the region including Turkey. Turkey, through Iran’s expansionist policy had to look for alternative alliance to face the rise of Islamic Republic in regional politics.

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The options Turkey had in its surrounding region especially Syria, was limited by the conflict it had with Russia, making the country prone to the notions of U.S and NATO. The conflict between Turkey and Russia was worsened by the shooting down of Russian-owned jet for violation of Turkish airspace on November 24, 2015. Russia widened its military base in Syria; bombed opposition groups backed by the Turkey and supported groups who were against Turkey such as PYD forces. Through such steps, Turkish hopes that it had long lobbied for in Washington and NATO headquarters had ended. The continuous Russia military presence in Syria was a sign that it had imposed its personal de facto no fly zone against Turkey. There has been a real possibility of the hope of the emergence of a Syrian Kurdish entity known internationally majorly managed by PYD. It has increased the Turkish fear for the secessionism and irredentism of the Kurdish. Furthermore, there had been a threat of the conflict between Russia and Turkey, which has cost the country dearly economically. Russia is the largest provider of energy to Turkey and sends a high number of tourists to Turkey, forming a major source of revenue. For Israel, the conflict with Turkey came about when the then Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticized the actions of Israelites at the times of war on Gaza and left the meeting during the World Economic. The actions exhibited that Turkey was in favor of Palestinians. The rift was furthered by the Mavi Marmara ship issue, with the Turkish officials condemning Israel to have been involved in state of Terrorism, resulting to fall in Turkish-Israel bilateral relations.  

One may wonder the reason for recalibration of the Turkish foreign policy is being by reconciling with nations such as Israel, UAE and Saudi Arabia. It can be explained through factors such as the signaling of a program to Egypt; foreign policy desires rationalization; and foreign policy reconsideration through regional political drawbacks. Each of the policies already existed in gestation even before the exit of Davutoglu. He should be acknowledged for the positive reorientation of TFP. However, due to the fresh domestic political picture and upcoming drawbacks and trends, President Erdogan had already decided to improve on the number of allies to Turkey and minimize its enemies even before the exit of Davutoglu. The same principle was supported by the incoming Prime Minister Yildrim on May 24, 2016. Such utterances never signified the rupture of TFP. They were seen as the continuation of the framework initiated by Davutoglu.  However, following Davutoglu exit, TFP is founded on the motto proactive moral realism. Moral realism should bring out Turkey as having the capability in defining its foreign policy in the coming years. As compared to the Davutoglu era, where proactive foreign policy relied soft power combined with civilization multilateralism, moral realism is a strategic choice developed aimed at achieving three goals concurrently. There is the maintenance of proactivism, continued promotion of humanitarian norms primacy and response to security risks.          


Turkey has been faced with conflicts with various countries such as Russia, Iran and Israel and the Kurdish issue which has affected its economic development and putting it under fear. To sort out such conflict, the Turkish government had been relying on the principles of Turkish foreign policy. The policy is believed to have been developed by Ahmet Davutoglu, the then Turkish Prime Minister. Therefore, the departure of Davutoglu from the office has been raising questions concerning the validity of TFP in the Turkish government. However, we found that TFP was still vital to the Turkish government even after the exit of Davutoglu, with the government still relying on its principles to achieve its objectives. Therefore, the exit of Davutoglu did not result to the rapture of TFP. The only changes seen in the TFP concerns the modus operandi, where the TFP application in the current government is founded on moral realism. There has been a continuation in the use of TFP and its principles by the government even after the departure of Ahmet Davutoglu.

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