How is the AK party shaping Turkey’s relations with Syria and the Middle East? A critical geographical perspective on the AK party’s foreign policy discourse

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In recent years Turkey has become a regional power in the Middle East. Ankara’s soft power has greatly increased due to Turkey’s successful combination of economic growth, democracy and Islam. Turkey has been proposed as an example for the Middle East, especially since the start of the Arab Spring. Ankara’s growing soft power has changed the way in which Turkey is perceived in its neighborhood. At the same time, the government of the Justice and Development party (hereafter AKP or AK party) has changed the way Turkey approaches its neighborhood. This thesis studies the ways in which the government of AK party has shaped Turkey’s relations with the Middle East and in particular Syria. The AK party has been in power since 2002 and has been the dominant political factor in society since then. With the rise to power of the AKP a new conception of Turkish foreign policy was established, with a renewed interest in the Middle East. This renewed interest means that Turkey is influencing its region in new and unprecedented ways. It is argued that the AKP discourse has played an important part in this new orientation. The most prominent example of how Turkey’s relations with the Middle East have changed is probably Syria. Moreover, the Syrian uprising is the most pressing issue in the Middle East right now. Because of these reasons this thesis pays specific attention to the AKP’s influence on Turkey’s relations with Syria. Therefore, the research question in this thesis is as follows: ‘How is the AK party shaping Turkey’s relations with Syria and the Middle East?’
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen