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Turkey is facing serious challenges to its policy of “zero problems with neighbours”. The Arab Spring has forced Turkey to set aside its attempts to build influence slowly. Relations with Syria’s leaders continue to worsen, damaged ties with Israel have not yet been mended, and there is no sign of progress over Cyprus. However, Turkey’s interests in other areas, for example the Balkans, appear to be growing. The House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee suggests that this shows the Turkish foreign policy “focusing on Turkey’s region, pursuing national security and economic interests, and better reflecting Turkish public attitudes”.

Turkey’s long-drawn-out bid for EU membership has made little progress in recent years, blocked by disputes over Cyprus and a general lack of support from some EU member states. Turkish enthusiasm for the project has waned, and Cyprus’s upcoming EU presidency is likely to stall things yet further despite a possibly less hostile France. However, one sign of movement is a recent agreement on visa-free travel.

Levels of violence have increased again in the decades-long conflict between the Turkish government and Turkey’s Kurdish community that has claimed around 45,000 lives on both sides over the past 30 years. There are however some small signs that there could be negotiations and greater recognition of Kurdish rights.

Turkey’s AK Party Government has reformed and modernised the country faster and more effectively than most of its predecessors, and introduced important human rights reforms. These have moved the country away from a statist approach towards a greater recognition of individual freedom. However, the military-era constitution has still not been re-written (although drafting has finally started) and there are continuing (even growing) concerns about human rights in practice.

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