Turkey is a founding member of the United Nations (1945), the OECD (1961), the OSCE (1973) and the G20 industrial nations (1999).
In line with its traditional Western orientation, relations with Europe have always been a central part of Turkish foreign policy. Turkey became a member of the Council of Europe in 1949, applied for associate membership of the EEC (predecessor of the EU) in 1959 and became an associate member in 1963. After decades of political negotiations, Turkey applied for full membership of the EEC in 1987, became an associate member of the Western European Union in 1992, reached a Customs Union agreement with the EU in 1995 and has officially begun formal accession negotiations with the EU on October 3, 2005. It is believed that the accession process will take at least 15 years due to Turkey's size and the depth of disagreements over certain issues.
These include disputes with EU member Republic of Cyprus over Turkey's 1974 military intervention to prevent the island's annexation to Greece. Since then, Turkey does not recognize the essentially Greek Cypriot Republic of Cyprus as the sole authority on the island, but instead supports the Turkish Cypriot community in the form of the de facto Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
The other defining aspect of Turkey's foreign relations has been its ties with the United States. Based on the common threat posed by the Soviet Union, Turkey joined the NATO in 1952 ensuring close bilateral relations with Washington throughout the Cold War. In the post-Cold War environment, Turkey's geostrategic importance shifted towards its proximity to the volatile Middle East. As well as hosting an important American base near the Syrian/Iraq border for US operations in the region,
Turkey's status as a secular democracy and its positive relations with Israel made Ankara a crucial ally for Washington. In return, Turkey has benefited from the United States political, economic and diplomatic support. However, in recent years relations have been strained by the ongoing Iraq War.
The independence of the Turkic states of the Soviet Union, with whom Turkey shares a common cultural and linguistic heritage, allowed Turkey to extend its economic and political relations deep into Central Asia.
The most salient of these relations saw the completion of a multi billion dollar oil and gas pipeline from Baku in Azerbaijan to the port of Ceyhan in Turkey. The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, as it is called, has formed part of Turkey's foreign policy strategy to become an energy conduit to the West. However, Turkey's border with Armenia, a state in the Caucaus, remains closed following its occupation of Azeri territory during the Nagorno-Karabakh War.
Relations with Armenia have been further strained by the controversy surrounding the forced deportations and related deaths of hundrends of thousands of Armenians in the last days of the Ottoman Empire, recognised by a number of countries and historians as the Armenian Genocide. Turkey rejects the term genocide, arguing instead that the deaths were a result of disease, famine and inter-ethnic strife.