Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from Professor Clement Dodd



  It would seem reasonable to assume that British policy with regard to Turkey must at least take into account Turkey's main foreign policy determinants and current concerns.

  1.  The broad determinants of Turkish foreign policy may be said to be as follows:

    (i)  A strong Atatürkist tradition of non-interference without due cause in the affairs of neighbouring states, and in particular great caution about offering support to Turkish/Muslim minorities remaining in what were once Ottoman territories, eg. in Thrace and Bulgaria.

    (ii)  A strong ambition, promoted also by Atatürk, to be regarded as part of European civilisation and a European state.

    (iii)  A determination not to surrender Turkish territory as determined in the 1921 Turkish National Pact and accepted in the Treaty of Lausanne. In particular this means that Kurdish separatism is not acceptable.

    (iv)  A refusal to accept Armenian claims of genocide during and after World War 1, and a disinclination to surrender any territory to present-day Armenia by way of recompense.

    (v)  The maintenance of a special relationship with the USA, seen as Turkey's vital ally in the cold war and more appreciative of Turkey's regional importance than EU and other European states.

  2.  The most important current issues are as follows:

    (i)  Caspian oil: Turkey, short of oil, is very eager to have Caspian basin oil transported by pipeline via south-east Turkey to the Mediterranean port of Ceyhan (Jeyhan). This has broad American support in preference to export via Iran. Turkey also does not want Caspian oil transported by tankers from Black Sea ports via the Straits, mainly for important environmental reasons. Kurdish separatism could, of course, affect the security of the oil route to Ceyhan.

    (ii)  Iraq: Turkey would be pleased to see the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, but not the dismemberment of Iraq if that should encourage aspiration for a Kurdish state embracing the Kurds of Turkey, Iraq and Iran. In this event the absorption of outside Kurds and Türkmen, and of Mosul, into Turkey is sometimes mooted.

    (iii)  Relations with Israel: Turkey has profitable arrangements with Israel in military procurements, maintenance and training, but seeks to keep in sympathy with Arab feeling on the Palestine question.

    (iv)  The Aegean: Turkey is requested by the Helsinki European Council (December 1999) to resolve any outstanding border disputes as a preliminary to progress towards EU membership. The most important Aegean dispute with Greece is the Greek desire to extend the territorial waters of its Aegean islands to 12 miles, the current international norm. Turkey cannot accept this since about 65 per cent of the Aegean, it claims, would then become Greek, thus theoretically blocking in Turkey, which would control some 10 per cent of the Aegean. Greece has also illegally fortified some Aegean islands. Turkey has declared in the past that unilateral action by Greece to extend territorial waters in the Aegean would be a casus belli, but now seems more prepared, if negotiations fail, to allow decision by the International Court of Justice.

    (v)  Cyprus: The Cyprus problem began in 1963 when the Greek Cypriots under Makarios, ousted the Turkish Cypriots from the joint government established under the 1960 international treaties. For political reasons the rump Greek Cypriot government came to be recognised by the UN as the legitimate government of the Republic of Cyprus. In 1974 Turkey, as a Guarantor Power, used its rights under the 1960 Treaties to intervene in order to prevent enosis (union with Greece) promised by the Greek Junta that overthrew the Greek Cypriot government, and to rescue the Turkish Cypriots from further persecution. Turkish forces have ever since remained in Cyprus at the behest of the Turkish Cypriot government to support the Turkish Cypriots against the threat of further attack. In 1975 the Turkish Cypriots established a liberal democratic system that continues to work reasonably well. This small democratic state is subject to an international embargo that cripples its economy (by preventing the development of international tourism) and enforces a large measure of economic dependence on Turkey.

  The de facto division of the island has not been recognised by the UN. Turkey is often held to be responsible for the lack of a settlement of this dispute. It is sometimes said (notably in the European Parliament) that Turkey will not enter the EU until it solves the Cyprus dispute. The ECHR, in May 2001, declared that because Turkey has troops in Northern Cyprus it therefore controls the country. No other proof was offered.

  Essentially Turkey supports the Turkish Cypriots in demanding that any solution should provide political equality for the Turkish Cypriots, as broadly provided for in the 1960 treaties establishing the Republic of Cyprus. The Greek Cypriots have always believed that they should be more than equal, constituting as they do three quarters of the population of the island. The Turkish government rejects any suggestion that it is responsible for the Cyprus problem, which it did not create, and deplores the acceptance of the Greek Cypriot government's application to join the EU as if it had a right to control the island as a whole. Support for the Turkish Cypriots in Turkish public opinion, and in the military, are factors Turkish politicians have to take seriously into account. If the Republic of Cyprus is admitted to the EU without a solution, Turkey may well be said to have troops in an EU member state without warrant: relations between Turkey and Greece, and between Turkey and the EU will undoubtedly become fragile.


1.  The Main Focus

  The broad aim of British policy, it is suggested, should be to contribute to the strengthening of Turkey's position and influence in its area, and to link Turkey's interests with those of the West. Why is this important? Because:

    (i)  Middle Eastern and Caspian oil are vital to the European and British economy. The sometimes unpredictable regimes in the Middle East need to be closely monitored, as the Gulf War showed. Turkey with its large military forces and important air bases on the periphery of the Middle East therefore has an important role to play. Turkey's close relationship with Azerbaijan and its significant, if less close, relations with other Turkic Central Asian states are also important in ensuring continuity of oil supply from the Caspian region. For historic reasons many of the nationalist elite in Turkey see Central Asia as the ancestral home of the Turks and a natural area of influence for Turkey, which could therefore act as a gateway to Central Asia for the West.

    (ii)  The important loci of world terrorism lie at present in fundamentalist Islamic groups. Although fundamentalist elements are present in Turkey, often promoted from outside, religion in Turkey is largely state controlled, though allowed, and sometimes even encouraged. Turkey is therefore the prime example of a secular state which manages to cope more or less successfully with Islam. Turkey's close alignment with the West would help span the Christian (or post-Christian) /Islamic divide. It would help persuade Islamic groups in the world generally, including the many in Europe, that differences between Islam and the norms of modern Western life are not crucial.

    (iii)  Turkey's most important trading partner by far is the European Union, with which there is a Customs Union agreement. Turkey is a large country with a young population of some 65 millions, relatively underdeveloped, and a potential manufacturing and distribution base for commerce with the Middle East and Central Asia.

    (iv)  The Turkish military is large, efficient, opposed to Islamic fundamentalism, and much respected in Turkey; its officers are carefully selected and are imbued with Atatürkist ideology, in which nationalism and secularism are uppermost. They also believe Turkey should be recognised as a European state. They wish to participate in the EU's defence structures, though until Turkey becomes an EU member state they will regard bilateral links with the United States and NATO membership as fundamental to Turkey's defence and will not wish the Turkish government to allow the use of NATO planning and other assets in WEU-led operations. (An agreement recently reached with Turkey to allow the use of NATO assets, provided any EU force is not involved in operations against Turkey's interests, has not so far been accepted by the Greek government). If Turkey's EU application appears to be coming to fruition, Turkey should perhaps be allowed to become a full member of the WEU, or whichever organisation succeeds it.

2.  Comment

  If for these reasons close relations between Turkey and the West are seen to be important, clearly there needs to be a settled situation in the Eastern Mediterranean. This means that Greek-Turkish relations have to be stable. This is difficult to achieve because Greece tends to think of itself as the outpost of Europe in the east, partly for historical reasons, and because of real problems between the two countries, as mentioned above.

  The major question also arises, namely, should not Turkey be entrusted, as it were, to the United States and kept in alignment with the western world through its close relationship with the USA, whose awareness of Turkey's strategic importance probably outweighs that of most European states? Also the USA has always been ready to help Turkey financially, especially through its influence in the IMF.

  However, although American support of, and close relations with, Turkey must remain, if Turkey is really to be part of the western world, some fundamental changes in Turkey's political and social system are needed that would be to go beyond the remit of the United States' strategic concerns. The EU states, including Britain, are in a better position to achieve this by seeking to prepare Turkey for admission to the European Union.

  Already Turkey is having to amend its constitution and enact new legislation to meet the human and political rights requirements of the Copenhagen Criteria. More reforms are required, however, than are encompassed by the Copenhagen Criteria if Turkey is to reach western European standards in liberal and democratic government. For instance the system of public administration is in need of drastic reform, to a greater degree than is probably envisaged in the Copenhagen Criteria. Also clientelism and patronage in politics need to be greatly reduced, and the conditions for recurrent military intervention should be avoided. (The military has intervened mainly to save the state from disorder, Islamic extremism and corruption).

  In short, Britain should promote EU membership for Turkey and might usefully explore ways, in the EU context, of encouraging more reform in Turkish political institutions than that envisaged in the Copenhagen Criteria.

3.  Particular issues in British policy

    (i)  Iraq: Britain needs to discourage any attack on Saddam Hussein that is likely to lead to the break-up of Iraq and the creation of difficulties for Turkey with its Kurdish problem, though the replacement of Hussein would not be unwelcome to Turkey.

    (ii)  The Kurdish question: Britain should not encourage polices that encourage Kurdish self-determination. Every case for self-determination has to be considered on its merits, with particular attention being paid to the consequences for other states. But the Turkish government needs to be encouraged to woo moderate Kurdish leaders in Turkey and to ensure that Kurds have an equal, or more than equal, opportunity to hold responsible positions in political and other institutions. This could be accompanied by encouragement for some cultural reforms, like the use of Kurdish in broadcasting and its part use in education. Attention to the prosperity of the Kurdish population is also important in order to make the prospect of union with Kurds in Iraq and Iran less than attractive economically.

    (iii)  The Aegean: Initiatives should be developed, if not already under way, to promote Greek-Turkish discussions of Aegean problems to avoid recourse to the International Court of Justice if possible, where legality may overrule common sense.

    (iv)  Cyprus: This is the most troublesome problem in the Eastern Mediterranean. British policy has hitherto been to support the Greek Cypriots for the sake, mainly, it seems for the continued security of the British sovereign bases in Cyprus and the availability of listening posts in Greek Cypriot territory. It is argued that Britain has to abide by the March 1964 Security Council decision that led to the acceptance of the solely Greek Cypriot government as the legitimate government of the Republic of Cyprus established in 1960. It is also argued that the Helsinki Final Act of 1975 calls for the preservation of international frontiers and the territorial integrity of states, though this somewhat self-contradictory Act also requires respect for the equal rights of peoples and their right to self-determination. The maintenance of international frontiers and the integrity of states have largely given way to self-determination in the cases of Kosovo and East Timor.

  The British government has always declined to take advantage of its legal right, as a Guarantor Power of the 1960 settlement, to restore the rights of the Turkish Cypriots under the 1960 Constitution. It is not then altogether surprising that in Turkey Britain does not have a good reputation and this militates against British influence. British spokesmen, and Ministers in the House of Commons, have often deplored the "intransigence" of the Turkish Cypriot "leader" Rauf Denktash without showing much understanding of the Turkish Cypriot case.

  It would greatly help a solution of the Cyprus problem if Britain, which is acknowledged to have a special interest in Cyprus, acted more even-handedly. To support an economic embargo on Northern Cyprus, thus impoverishing a struggling democracy, is surely unacceptable. It is arguable that the Greek Cypriots are a much greater impediment to a settlement than the Turkish Cypriots. In this regard it would seem wise not to discourage some Arab states from an inclination they have shown of late to consider recognising the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. The Greek Cypriots have to be made to realise that the Turkish Cypriots have a legal land moral right to recognition of their now long-established state, and that without this recognition a viable solution is virtually impossible.

  Above all Britain, as a Guarantor Power, must insist that Turkey neither created the Cyprus problem nor is responsible for its non-solution. It has to be made clear that if there is no solution, a Greek veto on Turkey's entry to the EU cannot be justified by Turkey's role in the Cyprus dispute.


  From time to time academic students of modern Turkey are invited by the Foreign Office to participate in briefing sessions for, say, a new ambassador being appointed to Ankara. These sessions seem to be appreciated and would appear to be of some value. So, too, are the numerous discussions arranged under the auspices of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office at Wilton Park. In the future it will almost certainly, however, be very difficult to find British academics knowledgeable about modern Turkey to participate in such meetings. Six of the 10 or so specialists in this field are either well into retirement or on the point of retiring. There are only two or three younger academic "Turkey watchers" and there are no academic posts to my knowledge specific to the study of the contemporary Turkish and Turkic worlds. This is an area which seems to merit some serious attention, not only for the provision of expertise, but also to enable younger generations of students to learn about the modern Turkish and Turkic world.


  A.   Turkey needs to be closely attached to the western world, for its own sake and for the sake of the West. It is a large, and in some respects strong, state, with very significant military capacity, though with internal problems, like that of religion, that closer association with the West World certainly help it to overcome.

  For the West close association with Turkey is important for the following reasons:

  1.  It is close to important oil reserves in the Caspian Basin whence oil is likely to be routed through S.E. Turkey to Ceyhan on the Mediterranean coast.

  2.  It has considerable potential for influencing events in the oil-rich and troubled Middle East, where it is a source of support for Israel.

  3.  Turkey already has a Customs union the EU and most Turkish trade is with Europe. As well as being a large country with development potential, Turkey also has access to developing markets close by in Central Asia and the Middle East.

  4.  Close association of a mainly Muslim, but still secularist, country like Turkey with the West must help break down the intellectual, political and social barriers now often seen to divide the Western world from Islam. Close alliance with the West helps Turkey remain secularist.

  B.   If Turkey is to be close to the West, should this mean primarily attachment to the USA or to Europe? For strategic, and financial reasons, Turkey must continue to be close to the USA, whose recognition of Turkey's strategic importance seems to be greater than that encountered in most European states. However, Europe is more relevant, it is suggested, to Turkey's development for the following reasons:

  1.  The modernisation/westernisation of Turkey's political and administrative and legal institutions in the 19th century was mostly influenced by European, particularly, French, models. These institutions now need to be reformed.

  2.  Preparation for membership of the EU is now obliging Turkey to make some fundamental constitutional and legal changes in accordance with the Copenhagen Criteria, but they are not foreign to the nature of its institutions. This process needs to be extended to parliamentary and administrative institutions. Membership of the EU would greatly help to bring these changes about better than an American connection would be able to do. However, since Turkey is a large, populous, and none too wealthy a country, aligning it with Europe cannot be expected to be a short and easy process. Britain could:

    (i)  encourage membership of the EU for Turkey and also explore means to encourage the further reform of Turkish political, administrative, legal and economic institutions, this latter in co-operation with international economic bodies; and

    (ii)  if Turkey makes good progress towards accession, continue to make efforts, despite Greek objections, to engage Turkey in full membership of EU defence organisations in order that essential NATO planning and other assets may be made available.

  C.  Turkey's accession to the EU is made more difficult by the state of Greek-Turkish relations which, while superficially cordial at present, have to overcome the problems of the Aegean and Cyprus.

  1.  The Aegean: All or nothing solutions of the Aegean problems would not seem to be necessary. It is hoped that negotiations to produce compromise solutions are being encouraged.

  2.  Cyprus: Membership of the EU by South Cyprus (the Republic of Cyprus) will create difficult problems for Turkey, which does not recognise the Republic of Cyprus, and would doubtless lead to Greek and Greek Cypriot vetoes on Turkish membership. Since Turkey did not create the Cyprus problem and is not responsible for its solution, the British Government, as a Guarantor Power of the original 1960 settlement under international treaties, needs to reassess its policy and seek to influence the UN and the EU to adopt more realistic attitudes less supportive of the Greek Cypriots. Britain needs to bear in mind that the British sovereign bases and other facilities in the South have to be balanced against the importance of Turkey's strategic and military position.

  D.  Iraq and the Kurdish Question: Whilst cultural and other changes may be recommended within the framework of EU policies with respect to Turkey, Turkish sensibilities on the Kurdish question have to be respected. In particular the break-up of Iraq could have undesirable consequences for Turkey, which might in that event feel obliged to take over some Kurdish areas outside its boundaries.

  E.  Future Expertise on Turkey: It is to be hoped that some initiatives will be taken to ensure that in the future there will be a small number of British based academics available in modern history and the social sciences to consult on the modern Turkish and Turkic areas.


  Emeritus Professor Dodd's academic career has been in the universities of Durham, Manchester, Hull and, finally, London (the School of Oriental and African Studies) where he established the Modern Turkish Studies Programme. He has been a visiting professor in the Bogazici, Bilkent and Middle East Technical universities, Turkey.

  He is the author of inter alia two books on Turkish politics and government and two books on the Cyprus issue, on which subject he has also edited two books. He is a former president of the British Society for Middle Eastern Studies.

Clement Dodd

January 2002

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