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Turkey's work on Iran nuclear deal shows emerging diplomatic power

While the US has continued to press for UN Security Council sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program, Turkey's high-profile role in brokering a nuclear deal with Tehran is just the latest sign of an emerging diplomatic power.

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Still, there are limits to what Turkey can achieve at the moment, says Fadi Hakura, a Turkey expert at Chatham House in London.

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“It’s ambitions vs. capacities,” says Mr. Hakura. “The ambitions are big; no question Turkey has regional and global ambitions – it has opened or plans 12 new embassies in Africa. But there is not sufficient capacity.”

China and India are both able to play bigger roles because of economic capacity,” says Hakura. But Turkey also needs an “intensification of political reforms, then it would be able the play the role it deserves.”

Turkey is not alone in trying to extend its influence.

In the Mideast alone – where Turkey says it came “within one word” of brokering a Syria-Israel peace deal before Israel attacked Gaza in late 2008 – Qatar is also playing a greater role – it has hosted countless Sudan peace talks, for example. Russia is a player, and offers state-run Russia TV in Arabic, with Mideast-specific programming. Brazil is a player as well. And Iran has sought in recent years to extend its reach, too, with diplomacy, proxy forces, and its own Arabic and English news channels.

“There is talk of Turkey and a neo-Ottoman foreign policy,” says Hakura. “But in the future there must be a link between capacity and ambitions, and that requires reforms.”

On the Iran nuclear deal, Davutoglu dismissed criticism from some skeptics in Washington, Europe, and Israel that Turkey was “being used” and “is naive,” or that “I am a dreamer.” The former academic said: “I was optimistic in the past, and I am more optimistic for the future.”

“Turkey is looking beyond its borders” and is finding a “new common sense, a new realism for a globalized world,” says Richard Falk, a Princeton University professor and UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories. “Turkey already plays a very important independent role, exploring the path for solutions and nonviolent geopolitics. This foreign minister understands that … solving conflicts peacefully is indispensable.”

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