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Turkey-Iran Relations after the JDP

Bayram Sinkaya


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1The Justice and Development Party (JDP / Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP), led by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, came to power in Turkey in November 2003. Since then, it has dominated Turkish politics and a number of successive governments. In the course of this time, much has changed in the Turkish political structure, domestic context, and in both international and regional settings. Foreign policy in Turkey has also been fundamentally transformed. In the meantime, Turkish-Iranian relations have considerably improved. Indeed, the seventeen-year record of JDP rule in Turkey and its implications for Turkish-Iranian relations are worthy of study. However, the relationship between Turkey and Iran has a history longer than the JDP rule in Turkey. Considering their age-old acquaintance, the recent development of an apparently close relationship between the two raises the following questions: What are the major trends in Turkish-Iranian relations? And, how has the JDP’s rise to power affected those relations? In other words, what has changed in the relationship between Turkey and Iran since the JDP came to power?

2This research paper aims to provide a trajectory of Turkish-Iranian relations particularly over the last two decades. It argues that throughout the long history of bilateral relations between them, Turkey and Iran have developed a kind of diplomatic culture in their dealings with each other. Although, there are apparent changes in their bilateral relations since the JDP came to power, Turkey-Iran relations have remained within the limits of that diplomatic culture which consists of the preservation of a ‘fine line’ between a bitter rivalry and friendly relations, cooperation and conflict. Certainly, a number of geopolitical and structural factors have been effective during this relationship. Nevertheless, political leaders play their role through their assessments of structural factors, geopolitical context, and potential opportunities. Depending on the various configurations of geopolitical, structural and leadership factors, Turkish-Iranian relations have oscillated between fierce competition and cooperation. Despite the apparent improvement in the Turkish-Iranian relationship since the JDP government, bilateral relations between the two countries have remained within the borders of that diplomatic culture. In order to substantiate this argument, this paper firstly provides an overview of Turkish-Iranian relations in recent history. After then, it focuses on analysis of relations between the two states particularly under the successive JDP governments. Then, it concludes with an overview and some speculation on the future of Turkish-Iranian relations.

© Institut français d’études anatoliennes, 2019

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