Ending decade-long conflicts: Türkiye's normalizing relations

For Türkiye, 2022 has been the year of normalizing foreign relations. We have seen easing tensions with six countries, including countries with which Türkiye had long standing conflicts, such as Armenia. With President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan signaling possible normalization talks with Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, expectations and questions rise: Will stability finally come? What steps have been taken by the sides that led to such a turn in relations?

Türkiye has had disputes with some regional countries like any other. It is completely natural to have conflicting interests with others since everyone’s needs are different.

However, conflicting interests can cause problematic relations when they reach a stalemate and take too long to resolve.

Stalemates occur when the competing sides do not compromise. There are many reasons for not finding common ground with the other side, the most common ones being keeping one’s potential gains and protecting one’s prestige.

Türkiye’s disputes with the six countries (Armenia, Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Syria, UAE) are relatively long-standing, most about a decade old.


Out of the six countries listed above, four are Arabian countries that are partners of Türkiye in different international cooperation organizations. The situation in bilateral relations naturally hinders the various aspects of cooperation.

Türkiye’s relations with Saudi Arabia cracked with the 2011 Arab Spring events, and the cleavage only expanded. The main topics of conflict were the 2013 Egyptian coup d’etat, the Qatar crisis in 2017, Türkiye’s Libya and East Mediterranean policies, and in 2018, regime-critical journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder in SA’s Istanbul consulate.

The opposing policies and positions of Türkiye and Saudi Arabia led to a decade of stirred relations until the sides agreed to end the political strife in 2021.

The political tension between the states gradually decreased due to the changes in the international political climate.

In 2021, the two countries exchanged contacts on the ministerial level, the first ever in four years. Since the strife on the topic was unpalatable, the transfer of Khashoggi’s case to Saudi authorities was the most significant development this year. This gesture was met with positive reactions from the Saudi side.

Leaders of the two countries, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, maintained good relations based on the goodwill principle. Presidential visits have taken place since the softening of the relations.

After a meeting in 2022, the leaders made a mutual press release. According to this release, the sides expressed their willingness to increase bilateral cooperation, mainly in trade.  

In 2022, Saudi Arabia lifted the unofficial ban on Turkish goods and other types of exports.

Relations with Egypt have been cut by the Turkish government since the coup d’etat in 2013. The government of Türkiye had a very staunch position against Abdelfettah el-Sisi’s government.

Although President Erdoğan repeatedly used denouncing words to describe Sisi, economic relations between the countries never ceased.

Along with trade relations, Egypt showed an implicit agreement with Türkiye’s accord with the Libyan government. Despite opposing the declared areas in the beginning, Cairo has established a degree of harmony with Ankara’s theses.

Because of the harmony shown by Egypt, Türkiye took the initiative of normalizing the relations. However, the talks were deserted by the sides after two sessions. Cairo dropped out of the normalization talks because of the 2022 Türkiye-Libya accord.

During the opening ceremony of the FIFA World Cup 2022, Abdelfettah el-Sisi and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan were seen exchanging a handshake. This gesture has been regarded by Egypt as “The beginning of bilateral normalization with Türkiye.”

What went wrong with Türkiye – the UAE relations were similar to those above: The 2013 coup d’etat in Egypt lit the fire with the UAE. The Arab states mentioned here liked Sisi more than Mohammed Morsi, the previous President of Egypt.

The second incident regarding the deterioration of the relations was again the Qatar crisis in 2017. Qatar is a firm ally of Türkiye. Naturally, broken ties between Qatar and other Arab states are reflected in Türkiye’s external policy.

The most important breaking point in Ankara – Abu Dhabi relations was the UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdullah Bin Zayed’s insult towards Fahreddin Türkkan, a general known as “the Hero of Medina” for his success in defending Medina in World War I. This gruesome act by Zayed severed the ties between the two countries.

Following 2017, Abu Dhabi supported Greece in the East Mediterranean conflict instead of Türkiye.

In Libya, the UAE has been supporting the illegitimate government. This caused a stir between Abu Dhabi and Ankara because Türkiye supports the government in Tripoli – the legitimate one.

The UAE decided to move according to the changing status quo in the region and started normalizing relations with regional countries, such as Israel, Iran, and Turkey.

Upon this decision, UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan and National Security Advisor Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed al-Nahyan visited President Erdoğan at different times. The visits made it clear that Abu Dhabi wanted to cooperate calmly rather than aggressively. The visitors from the UAE discussed the possibilities of new investments with President Erdoğan.

The last Arabian country on the list is Syria. The relations between the countries broke off when the Syrian civil war broke out in 2011.

Bashar Assad regime’s manner alienated Ankara from Damascus, and the terrorist waves that broke out in the northern Syria forced Türkiye to engage in self-defense in the region. Türkiye and the West wanted Assad gone, Russia and Iran supported his regime. Thus, the war is ongoing for the past 11 years.

There has been virtually no diplomatic relations between Syria and Türkiye since then. However in 2022, there has been some developments with the situation. Authorities in the region including Turkish authorities are unanimous that the only way for the problem to be solved is through dialogue. Signs coming from President Erdoğan indicate similar resolutions.

Latest development on the topic was President Erdoğan’s statement on the possibility of talks with Assad when asked by a journalist. The President said “There is no eternal resentment in politics. When the time comes, one could sit, assess, and renew the situation.”

Upon the statement, Russia’s Special Envoy to Syria Alexander Lavrentiev said “I believe in case of mutual desire, Russia will be ready to provide a platform for the meeting. I have no doubt.”

Lavrentiev added that Russia is ready to provide mediation between Türkiye and Syria.


Türkiye has had a good relationship with Israel since it was established. Although,as a Muslim-Majority country, Türkiye always positioned itself against Israel’s invasion in Palestine.

On these grounds, the relations started to deteriorate in 2009 with the Gaza War. The deterioration continued with Türkiye blocking Israel in a military drill, injustice towards Erdoğan in Davos in 2009, bad portrayal of Israel in Turkish soap operas, “Mavi Marmara” incident, Avi Mirzahi’s statement that crossed the line, the “lower seat” incident, and occasional statements from Turkish and Israeli sides that insult the other side.

The relations went on in this rough manner until 2022. Both Prime Minister Yair Lapid and President Isaac Herzog indicated that there were efforts to normalize Israeli-Turkish relations.

After a phone talk between Lapid and Erdoğan, the leaders stated that Ambassadors are returning to both Israel’s Tel Aviv and Türkiye’s Ankara.  


Türkiye and Armenia have a century-long feud over the 1915 allegations. On top of this, Nagorno-Karabakh wars with Azerbaijan have triggered a drastic response from Türkiye.

1915 allegations stayed in the form of quarrel over the years, while Armenia's aggression over Azerbaijan territory met with serious reactions from Ankara.

Following the first invasion in 1993, Türkiye has severed ties with Armenia completely. No permanent embassies or consulates are established in Armenia, there were no direct flights between Türkiye and Armenia, the borders between are closed and strict visa regulations apply to the citizens of both countries.

Between 2008 and 2010, there were efforts to normalize the relations between the states, which resulted in a dead end when the Zurich Protocols could not make it past the Armenian Parliament.

After the Second Karabakh War in 2022, some aspects of the feud started to change. As the regional conjuncture changed, the relations did too. With direct contacts for gradual normalization being established, direct flights between Armenia and Türkiye have begun, and the borders are open to third countries' citizens as of 2022.

Authorities of respective countries expressed their desires of total normalization numerous times.

Mansur Ali Bilgiç - 30/12/2022