Turkey's main political, economic and military relations have remained rooted within the West since the foundation of the republic and its membership to NATO in 1952. Ankara became a crucial strategically in diverting Soviet forces from Central Europe and preventing their expansion into the Mediterranean. Though primarily a Western orientated actor in international affairs, Turkey also fostered relations with the Middle East, becoming the only NATO member of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, as well as forging close relations with Israel.
The European Union remains Turkey's biggest trading partner, and the presence of a well-established Turkish diaspora in Europe has contributed to the development of extensive relations between the two over the years. Turkey became a member of the Council of Europe in 1949, applied for associate membership of the EEC (predecessor of the EU) in 1959 and became an associate member in 1963. After decades of political negotiations, Turkey applied for full membership of the EEC in 1987, reached a Customs Union agreement with the EU in 1995 and has officially begun accession negotiations on October 3, 2005. It is believed that the accession process will take at least 15 years because of Turkey's size and the depth of disagreements over certain issues.
Historically, relations with neighbouring Greece have known periods of tension. The long divided island of Cyprus and the disputes over the air and sea boundaries of the Aegean Sea remain the main issues of disagreement between the two neighbours. Recently, the issue of Cyprus has become one of the main points of contention in Turkey's accession negotiations with the EU since Turkey is refusing to open its ports to Greek Cypriot traffic. Nonetheless, following the consecutive earthquakes of 1999 in Turkey and Greece, and the prompt response of aid and rescue teams from both sides, the two nations have entered a much more positive period in their relations, with Greece actively supporting Turkey's candidacy to enter the European Union.
Since the end of the Cold War, Turkey has been actively building relations with former communist countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, leading to many reciprocal investments and migratory currents between these states and Turkey.
Even though Turkey participated in the NATO-led peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan after September 11, the Iraq War faced strong domestic opposition in Turkey. A government motion which would have allowed U.S. troops to attack Iraq from Turkey's south-eastern border couldn't reach the absolute majority of 276 votes needed for its adoption in the Turkish Parliament, the final tally being 264 votes for and 250 against. This led to a cooling in relations between the U.S. and Turkey and fears that they may be damaged as a result of the situation in Iraq. The Turkish government continue to place pressure on the U.S. to clamp down on insurgent training camps in northern Iraq, without much success.
Foreign relations of the Republic of Turkey refer to the policies pursued by the Turkish government in its external relations with the international community.
Historically, based on the western inspired reforms of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, such policies have placed heavy emphasis on Turkey's relationship with the western world, especially those relating to the United States, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union.
The post cold war has seen a diversification of relations, with Turkey seeking to strengthen its regional presence in the Balkans, Middle East and aucasus, as well as its traditional goal of EU membership. In conductings it's foreign policy, Ankara is influenced by a number of external and internal factors, encompassing strategic and security interests, historical and cultural influences and the internal political situation.
The recent Elections, June 2011
The decisive victory of Turkey's ruling government party in elections Sunday is not only a defining move for a country trying to forge its identity, but key to the balance of power in the Middle East.
The democratic republic, which is 99 percent Muslim, has been enveloped in a battle to define its style of secular government and the role of Islam in its society.
For the United States and its allies, Turkey is a critical link to a Muslim world.
To Western sensibilities, the evolution of Turkey, formed 84 years ago, is a mosaic of contradictions. Government has excluded religion from public life and those who were overtly religious were seen as backward. As religious Turks gained a foothold in society, prohibitions against religious expression seemed increasingly old-fashioned and restrictive. Erdogan's party has defined secularism as maintaining a separation between mosque and state so neither interferes with each other.
Prime Minister Erdogan pledged that he would safeguard Turkey's secular traditions and continue pushing for the country's acceptance into the European Union.
Financial markets responded favorably to the elections, indicating its support of a government that has welcomed foreign investment. Inflation has dropped under Erdogan and the economy has grown at a strong annual average of 7 percent.