Ferhat Durmaz*


In the 20th century, the focus of Turkey’s foreign policy orientation was the Western world, and non-Western regions such as Asia did not occupy an important place in Turkey’s foreign policy agenda. By the 21st century, Turkey, under the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AK Party), has adopted a multidimensional foreign policy approach aiming to establish strong relations with all actors in the international area. However, in the first two periods of the AK Party government, Turkey’s foreign policy orientation has generally been towards the Middle East region. In the post-2011 period, due to the problems in relations with its allies and regional actors, Turkey has wanted to diversify its foreign policy and regions such as Asia have gained more importance for Turkey. In 2013, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan brought up the issue that Turkey could become a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization due to the problems in relations with the EU (Erşen, 2013: 15). During this period, Turkey’s commercial relations with Asian countries gained dynamism and the Free Trade Agreement signed with Malaysia on 17 April 2014 entered into force on 1 August 2015 (Republic of Turkey Ministry of Trade, 2022a).

Turkey’s interest in Asia was expressed more systematically and concretely with the Asia Anew Initiative announced on 5 August 2019. Asia Anew Initiative aims to establish cooperation between Turkey and Asian countries in areas such as politics, security, and economy in parallel with Asia’s increasing economic and political importance in the international arena. Some countries, such as Malaysia, are more prominent in the Asia Anew Initiative. The reason for Malaysia coming to the forefront is that Turkish decision-makers attach special importance to Malaysia within the initiative’s framework, and the Turkey-Malaysia relations, which had reached a certain level before the initiative, have the potential for further development (Daily Sabah, 03.08.2022).

This article first analyzes the goals of the Asia Anew Initiative and the factors that led to these goals. Then, I will focus on relations with Malaysia as a case country due to the development of relationships to a certain extent before the initiative and the emphasis of Turkish decision-makers on the development of relationships.

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