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Paradoxes in Turkey’s Syria policy: Analyzing the critical episode of agenda building

  • Özlem Tür (a1) and Mehmet Akif Kumral (a2)

This article explores the discursive reasons behind the paradoxes in Turkey’s foreign policy since the onset of the Syria crisis. By looking at representation of Turkey’s Syria policy in two prominent pro-government newspapers, Star and Yeni Şafak, the authors highlight the significance of the February 2012 episode, after which Ankara experienced deep discursive dilemmas for three reasons: the uncertain portrayal of the dyadic context, the ambiguous framing of third-party roles, and ambivalent agenda building. Despite the shadow of imminent civil war, Turkey’s foreign policy elite refrained from framing the real risks arising within Syria. Idealistic-normative calls appealed to massacre rhetoric in order to legitimize humanitarian intervention. However, the geopolitical framing of third-party roles did not assist in the building of diplomatic ground for international intervention. Quite the contrary, it led to the shaping of public opinion toward realistic-utilitarian interference. Swinging between intervention and interference, Ankara pushed itself toward a liminal position. Even though the Turkish government’s rhetorical ambivalence helped to sway anti-war domestic public opinion, it did not help to control the spiraling of Syria into civil war. That is to say, the ambivalent agenda building in the critical February 2012 episode perpetuated paradoxes in Turkey’s Syria policy and left lingering implications for the transformation of the Syrian crisis in the years to come.

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Author’s Note: This study was conducted at Middle East Technical University as part of the post-doctoral research project (DOSAP) entitled “Understanding Turkey’s Foreign Policy Discourses during the Syrian Crises of 1957 and 2012: A Comparative Analysis of Contextual Thematization in Governmental Framing Practices.” A draft version of this article was presented at the 56th Annual Convention of the International Studies Association, New Orleans, February 18–21, 2015. The authors would like to thank Raymond Hinnebusch, Giovanna Dell’Orto, and the anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments.

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New Perspectives on Turkey
  • ISSN: 0896-6346
  • EISSN: 1305-3299
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