Until 1990, it was easy to distinguish the characteristics, framework and limitations of Turkey’s role, not only in the Middle East, but also in its regional and international milieus. Turkey was an integral part of the Western-Atlantic alliance against Communism, and this determined its alliances, enmities, struggles and conflicts, not just vis-a`-vis its Arab neighbours, but also in its regional and international environments. Even during the Cold War, Turkey did not have a specific policy towards the Arabs, and this could also be said to be true in relation to the larger Islamic bloc, given its membership in the Organization of the Islamic Conference. However, as far as the Arabs were concerned, Turkey maintained bilateral relations with individual countries, rather than blocs, since the Arabs themselves did not form one bloc, speak with one voice or, despite the Arab League, share a single policy towards Turkey, Iran, or any other party. In any case, Turkey’s attitude, governed by its membership in the Atlantic alliance, and the nature of the ruling elite in Ankara, which still carried the memory of its complex history with the Arabs and against Islam, were enough to prevent any stable long-term relationship with the Arabs, except for a few marginal contacts.

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Turkey’s internal and external challenges

Middle East

Arab world


Cold War



Arab and Non-Arab axes