However, the new government faces a series of challenges on security, economic development, and foreign affairs, as Turkey is undergoing its worst period in the relations with Russia and its alliance with the US.
As the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) conducted its congress last May and elected Binali Yildirim as the president of the party, it will help President Erdogan to perform his next move to appoint Yildirim as the new prime minister. As a close ally to President Erdogan during the last two decades and the co-founders of the AKP, Yildirim was appointed to replace Ahmet Davutoglu, who stepped down after weeks of simmering tensions in his relationship with President Erdogan.
Although the new Turkish prime minister has suggested a comprehensive change in the country’s foreign policy, according to analysts, it seems that there is no hope for any significant changes as the country faces difficulties in both domestic and foreign affairs.
Turkey has simultaneously had to concentrate forces for military operations against rebel fighters under the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the southeast and in dealing with terrorist threats from the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS). The fight against the IS by Turkey has faced a lot of difficulties and complexities as the US and Turkey hold a range of differences on this front. Meanwhile, relations with Russia have been pushed to the peak after Turkey downed a Russian fighter aircraft in Syrian territory last year.
One of the current major challenges for the new government is continuing the crackdown on PKK rebels. Recently, the Turkish army, with the support of F-16 fighter jets, helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles, has conducted several major offensive campaigns against PKK bases in its southeast region and northern Iraq. After the truce between the government and the PKK collapsed, and the conflict between the PKK and the military forces flared up once again in July last year, thousands of PKK militants and hundreds of soldiers and civilians were killed. In response to the crackdown by government troops the PKK consecutively conducted bombings, mostly on Turkish soldiers and security forces.
The conflict between the PKK and government troops, which has lasted for more than three decades, is now showing signs of further escalation. In early April, President Erdogan announced that there were 355 members of Turkish security forces killed, while the PKK side also reported the loss of more than 5,000 PKK militants.
Kurdish issues have also harmed relations between Turkey and its ally the US. Ankara always vehemently opposes Washington’s backing of the Kurdish forces in Syria in the fight against IS. Turkish President Erdogan frankly criticised the US’s support gunmen belonging to Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Syria, saying that the PKK in Turkey together with Kurdish forces in Syria and IS are terrorists.
The disagreement between the two NATO allies has made it difficult to find a consensus in the US-led front against IS, of which Turkey is a member.
Turkey has made it difficult for the US as recently Turkey Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu proposed to join with the US in a special campaign against IS in Syria, but on the condition that the campaign does not include Syrian Kurdish militia, which seen as good partner by the US on the counter-terrorism front.
Meanwhile, Russia recently publicly accused Turkey before the United Nations for supporting and supplying weapons to the IS. Words between the two sides make it difficult to heal the rift in the two countries’ relations.
It can be said that, with a range of regional issues related to the fight against IS, or disagreements between Turkey and the European Union in addressing migration crisis, Ankara is facing enormous difficulties in adjusting its foreign policy towards reducing confrontation and enhancing co-operation as the new government has committed. The appointment of the new PM by President Erdogan took place smoothly, but his government still has to deal with underground waves that has the potential to affect the regional situation.
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