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A major step for Turkey

Rooftops in Ankara, Turkey

As Prime Minister Erdogan showcases Turkey's prestige on a visit to the White House, the country has its ratings upgraded...

May 19, 2013 9:45 by

“Turkey is a stable partner for the United States in a region which is likely to remain unstable for years to come,” Ulgen said of Washington’s NATO ally.

So far, instability in Syria, Iraq and between Iran and Western powers has barely affected Turkey’s fast rising prosperity, even if has undermined the government’s declared policy of “zero problems with the neighbours”.

A double car bombing on its southern frontier last week highlighted the risk of Syria’s civil war spilling across the border, with the Turks harbouring more than 100,000 Syrian refugees, including military defectors and rear bases for rebels fighting former Turkish ally President Bashar al-Assad.

Worsening internal strife in Iraq and the possibility of a Western or Israeli military strike on Iran’s nuclear programme also pose security risks for Turkey.

But Ulgen said it was the country’s internal political future that posed the biggest challenge to its peaceful rise as a regional power with global ambitions.

“The biggest challenge is whether Turkey is going to succeed in reaching a settlement with its own Kurds,” he said. The conflict has killed 40,000 people in the last three decades.

Talks between the Ankara government and jailed separatist leader Abdullah Ocalan led to a historic ceasefire declaration by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in March under which fighters began withdrawing from positions in southeastern Turkey last week.

The peace plan, popular in opinion polls so far, is a gamble for Erdogan who could face a national backlash before elections next year if it stumbles.

“An unstable environment, deriving from any political risk could jolt the economy to a strong and unexpected degree despite the positive outlook,” said Mehmet Altan, professor of political economy at Istanbul University.

A senior NATO source who has long dealt with Turkey said Ankara faced a deteriorating regional security environment and had become a recipient of NATO protection with allied Patriot missiles deployed on its soil for the third time since 1991.

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