A recent poll has revealed that the majority of Turkish citizens consider the fight against terrorism as the most important problem for Turkish foreign policy.
Some 44 percent said the fight against terror is the most important issue of foreign policy in the poll conducted by Kadir Has University. The Syrian issue ranked second by 24.6 percent.
The same poll showed the public favors dialogue for a stronger foreign policy, since 61.2 percent said strengthening political relations with other countries should be given more weight for a stronger foreign policy.
The poll conducted after the referendum for the presidential system shows a huge rise in the public opinion’s perception of the president as the key player in the maker of foreign policy.
Some 69.2 percent said the president is the main institution shaping foreign policy, while this was 23.2 percent in 2016 and 7.7 in 2013.
The foreign ministry ranks second with 37.3 percent while the prime minister ranks as fifth with 15.3 percent. Similarly, 67.2 percent said the president is active in executing foreign policy. This number was around 32 percent in 2016.
Strengthening political relations with other countries tops the list, with 61.2 percent to answer the question of what Turkey should do for a stronger foreign policy, while use of force comes at the bottom with 7.8 percent.
Some 38.8 percent said Turkey should prioritize economic support to other countries while 25 percent said economic sanctions should be applied for a stronger foreign policy.
The increasing trend in the perception of Azerbaijan as Turkey’s best friend continues, as it tops the list of Turkey’s friends with 71.3 percent. Then, there is a sharp gap with the rest of the countries, as Pakistan follows Azerbaijan with only 2.2 percent and Qatar with 1.9 percent. Some 17.2 percent said Turkey has no friends.
The United States has seen a sharp rise in the threat perception of the Turkish public, as it topped the list of the countries posing a threat to Turkey. Some 66.5 percent said the U.S. poses a threat to Turkey, a 22 percent rise from last year’s 44 percent. The negative perception of EU countries has also seen a sharp rise as it ranks third in the list after Israel. While 37.4 percent said Israel posed a threat to Turkey, 24 percent named the EU countries. The ratio for the EU was around 10 percent in previous years.
The fight against terror ranked as the first most important problem with the U.S., by 64 percent. The extradition of Fethullah Gülen, the cleric who is believed to be behind the coup comes second (32.1) followed by the U.S.’s Kurdish policies in the Middle East (26.7), in order of Turkey’s most important problems with the U.S. Some 48.9 percent believe the U.S. is a country that cannot be trusted.
The poll provides a pulse about more recent issues, like the state of emergency. Some 42.7 percent said measures taken within the state of emergency have negatively affected Turkey’s image. Some 51.7 percent have also said the July 15 coup attempt have negatively affected Turkey’s foreign policy.
There is a 10 percent rise in the public’s positive perception on Turkey’s policies in the Middle East. Some 29.1 percent said they find it successful while this ratio was 17.9 in 2016. Similarly, 31.6 percent said they found Turkey’s policy in Syria successful, a 15 percent rise compared to last year’s poll.
When asked about the course of policy in Syria, 49.9 percent of the public believes Turkey needs to remain unbiased in Syria and should not interfere, while 14.1 percent said it should support the armed opposition forces.
Some 93.7 percent of the respondents said the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is a terror organization, marking a three percent rise compared to last year’s poll. In 2015, this ratio was around 85 percent.
Relations with the European Union
One of the most striking aspects of the poll was on relations with the European Union. While there is an increasing debate within Europe to suspend membership negotiations with Turkey, a view which was officially endorsed this month with the European Parliament’s non-binding decision, 70 percent of Turks said the EU will not suspend accession talks in the near future. Nearly the same amount of people (73) said Turkey will not suspend membership negotiations either.
This year’s poll has seen a rise in the percentage of those who said they do not want Turkey to be a member of the EU. In the 2016 poll, 51.6 percent said they did not want Turkey against the 38.2 percent who did. Some 81 percent said Turkey will never be a member of the 28 nation bloc, a rise from the 66.7 percent of last year’s poll.
Despite pessimism about Turkey’s eventual EU membership, nearly 70 percent said they are against establishing a relationship based on another model. Neither Russia nor the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) can be seen as alternatives to EU membership. Some 27.6 percent voted that strategic cooperation with Russia, while 17.6 percent voted that increasing Turkey’s role in the OIC can be alternatives to membership. Only 13.1 percent seem to be agreeing with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who suggested joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) in the past, as an alternative.
According to the poll, 40 percent of Turks consider Turkey is first and foremost an Islamic country. Some 32 percent said it is a European country while 23 percent said it is a Middle Eastern country.
The poll took place before the collapse of the peace talks in Cyprus and provides input in terms of the views about the divided island.
Some 41.5 percent said the problem should be solved on a solution based on the creation of a bi-communal and bi-zonal federation in Cyprus, while 36.7 percent said the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus should be tied to Turkey. Some 27.7 percent said the solution should be based on the establishment of two independent states.