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Nearly a century after the Ottoman empire fell, Turkey's private sector could provide benign guidance to the Middle East

Marco Vicenzino guardian.co.uk, Sunday 12 December 2010 11.00 GMT Article history

Although Palestinian survival has been largely sustained by Arab countries, it is the Turkish government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan that has emerged as the Palestinians' most resolute spokesman. By backing its rhetoric with diplomatic muscle, Turkey most recently influenced Brazil and Argentina to recognise an independent Palestine. Other Latin American countries will soon follow. In addition, Turkey is actively harnessing international support to end the Israeli blockade of Gaza.


Despite general public sympathy for the plight of Palestinians, Turks are not united on ways of showing this support. Secular Turks allege that religiously inspired NGOs, with government encouragement, exploit the Palestinian cause to promote and strengthen themselves domestically and abroad. The recent flotilla fiasco off Gaza provides a prime example.


It is common in the Middle East to attribute Arabs' misfortunes to western colonialism and nearly four centuries of Ottoman rule. While significant antipathy toward the west persists, there has been a considerable shift in Arab public opinion toward Turkey in recent years. Turkey is increasingly looked upon by Arabs as "what we should be".


It has garnered enormous respect for its achievements and growing influence in the region. Although a majority Sunni state, Turkey thus far has been able to rise above the Sunni-Shia divide evident in many Arab and Muslim-majority states – shrewdly converting it into valuable political and diplomatic capital.


After several false dawns, the Arab street remains largely cynical and frustrated. While pride in ancestors' achievements provides some comfort, it is usually overwhelmed by current realities.


Few if any leaders provide inspiration. Slow strides in Iraq seemed destined to be followed by greater slowness and fewer strides. Despite transparent elections, Palestinian infighting undermines real hope. After decades of martial law, ambiguity surrounding Egypt's succession hangs like a dagger over its future. Assad's fiddling with free markets and tight grip in Syria provides no vision or certainty for the next generation. Considerable progress in Jordan is difficult to replicate beyond its borders as its ability to influence others is limited by internal challenges and regional realities. Despite apparent progress, Lebanon remains a fragile powder-keg that could explode at any moment. The resource-rich pre-emerging market of Libya remains subject to the whims of an ageing autocrat whose stability is questioned clandestinely at home and openly abroad.


The constantly recurrent question in western policy circles is whether Turkey can serve as a model for Arab states.


While Turkey can serve as an inspiration and provide useful lessons, it cannot be a model. The unique dynamics and historical context within which the modern Turkish republic developed cannot be replicated. Contemporary Turkey is still evolving democratically. Internal power struggles, the Kurdish issue and the broader path to reform are just some reminders of the arduous road ahead. The government must strike a balance. With enormous challenges at home, it must avoid overreach abroad.


With the overwhelming majority of Arab populations under the age of 30 confronting a bleak future, a demographic timebomb is ticking in the region. This further underscores the need for Turkey's leadership to encourage its private sector to seize the initiative in the Middle East and unleash its potential. By creating opportunities it can help relieve regional pressures and contribute to a soft landing.


Change in the broader Middle East will occur most effectively through an evolutionary process marked primarily by economic growth and not imposition of external designs. Gradually, over time, the potential for further reforms will increase. When needed, Turkey's politicians should provide a gentle touch but leave it to its businessmen to produce results. After all, Turkey's most effective ambassadors come from its private sector.


For four centuries ending with the first world war, major decisions dictating the course of Arab history were largely made from Istanbul. History will not repeat itself. However, after nearly a century of absence, the return of real Turkish influence to Arab capitals, in a more benign form, must be welcomed. It is also fundamentally essential to the gradual transformation of a region whose instability poses a constant threat to global order.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/dec/12/turkey-arab-states-guidance-middle-east
 

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Well Turkey is political and economical very engaged in many arab states.

For example in the construction sector.Many projects in the gulf states and iraq are built by turkish construction companies.Also our export to arab states is increasing.Visum is lift on with Lebanon,Jordan,Syria etc...

The only disadvantage is democracy vs monarchy.
 

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arctic tern
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I think that Turkey's position in the region is changing only because of the policy of Turkey's government, which tends to move from the west towards the Arab and Muslim nations: The recent change in Turkey's approach towards the Palestinians is just an example.
However, I think that the country which actually extends its influence in the region is not Turkey but Iran- and it won't cause the Arab states to change into more liberal democracies but into less modern theocracies.
 

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I think that Turkey's position in the region is changing only because of the policy of Turkey's government, which tends to move from the west towards the Arab and Muslim nations: The recent change in Turkey's approach towards the Palestinians is just an example.
However, I think that the country which actually extends its influence in the region is not Turkey but Iran- and it won't cause the Arab states to change into more liberal democracies but into less modern theocracies.
Shiitte Iran's influence on Sunni Arabs? Can you tell me how you made this observation?
 

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Turkish, Arab firms meet on TUSKON bridge to expand trade



Seventy companies and hundreds of businessmen from Turkey and Middle Eastern countries assembled in İstanbul on Saturday at a meeting organized by the Turkish Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists (TUSKON) to sign new business deals and further increase trade and economic interaction.


“Turkey-Middle East Trade Bridge -- 3”, a business forum that brought nearly 200 Turkish businessmen with their Middle Eastern counterparts, primarily from Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, was interpreted as another bold move that would facilitate a swelling in trade between Turkey and these countries. Seventy companies from various countries doing business in textiles, construction, home and office furniture, food and tourism displayed their products in 33 booths.

Amman Chamber of Commerce President Riad Saifi said Turkish TV series have caused a tremendous increase in sale of products by Turkish brands in Arab countries.

The Turkish series “Gümüş” (Silver) and “Ihlamurlar Altında” (Under the Linden Trees) were some of the first Turkish productions to break viewing records on Arab stations. Nearly 10 Turkish-produced series are being aired on various Arab stations, prompting more visits to Turkey by citizens of Arab nations. More than 2 million Arabs chose Turkey as their vacation destination last year, and this number is now rapidly swelling.

Uğur Çelik, a representative from Oylat Kaplıcaları A.Ş., a company operating thermal springs in Bursa’s Oylat neighborhood, in an interview with Today’s Zaman said they do not need advertising because they are always at 100 percent capacity. Even in non-seasonal periods, he said, 60 percent of their hotel was full, which he termed a “very good outcome.” He also added that they had received 300 families from the Middle Eastern countries so far this year and said this figure has been on the rise over the years as Arabs have begun to explore and discover similar touristic attractions in Turkey. “We will also apply the same acceleration to our current $80 million in trade [between Turkey and Jordan] to reach $300 million soon,” Saifi said, adding that trade relations between the two countries date back centuries.
Prominent companies from Jordan

Noting that the institution he heads is the largest economic organization in Jordan, with 45,000 active members, Saifi said he arrived in Turkey with the most important Jordanian businessmen. He also stated that a free trade zone agreement Turkey recently signed with Jordan has had a positive effect on their trade, noting that an agreement that was expected to be signed between the chamber and TUSKON will further improve cooperation.

Speaking to Today’s Zaman, Khaled Khalili, general manager of Trans-Jordan for Electro Mechanical Supplies Co., said visa exemption deals Turkey struck with Middle Eastern countries have indeed facilitated trade between firms in his country and Turkey, adding that his company’s business with Turkey reached $2 million and lauding Turkey’s recent outreach to these countries.

Ahmed Kharma, general manager of Kharma Trading and Importing Co., and Mahmoud Kamel Altrter, general manager of The Kind Land from Amman, told Today’s Zaman that they welcome these kinds of TUSKON events, which have benefited them for years. Kharma said ceramic tiles, sanitary ware and central heating systems that his company was focused on has made huge strides in business and picked up a momentum in ties with Turkey thanks to TUSKON’s mediating role.

The foreign ministers of Turkey, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon decided in a meeting on June 10 of this year to set up a high-level quartet cooperation council to boost existing legal mechanisms in free trade and visa exemption deals to improve trade cooperation between these four countries. The cooperation council seeks “to develop a long-term strategic partnership” and to “create a zone of free movement of goods and persons among our countries” during a meeting on the sidelines of a Turkey-Arab cooperation forum in İstanbul in June.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu also met with his counterparts from Lebanon, Syria and Jordan on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meetings in New York in late September to discuss the cooperation council. He said the free trade zone was likely to be formally announced at a summit of leaders of the four countries, slated to take place in İstanbul in January in 2011. “We will declare at that summit that this economic zone is in effect,” Davutoğlu told reporters. “We hope that this is good news not only for these four countries but also for the entire region.”

The four-way cooperation will focus on four areas in the coming months: energy, trade, transportation and tourism. According to a scheme of the division of labor, each country will be in charge of coordinating efforts in specific areas, with Turkey being tasked with cooperation in trade. In November, ministers of energy, trade, tourism and transportation met to review the efforts in this regard.
Turkey an alternative for India

Khalid Khalaileh, general manager of Canada International, which also has a regional office in Jordan, said this is the first time he has attended a TUSKON event but said TUSKON has been doing a nice job in bringing businessmen from various countries together to make business deals. “I have already made one,” he added. Noting that Turkey is a trusted country and vested tremendous interest in engaging in trade and expanding economic activity with this country, he asked why firms in Middle Eastern countries feel the necessity to trade with India or China. Khalaileh said Turkey is not only a Muslim country and a trusted partner in business but also offers goods of high quality.

TUSKON President Rızanur Meral, briefing participants in the business forum, said businessmen from 42 countries, predominantly Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, participated in the event. Meral said TUSKON brought together 200 Turkish businessmen with Middle Eastern businessmen, who then went over business deals on 45 tables.

Meral said Turkey’s total trade volume with Syria, Lebanon and Jordan is $4.5 billion and that this is only 2.5 percent of total Turkish trade. “Although this seems small, we plan to reach $10 billion in upcoming years,” the TUSKON president said. Stressing that Turkey is the fifth largest market in its trade with Iraq, Meral said it also expects the same acceleration with Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, adding that home textiles, furniture, food and construction sectors are making inroads in these three countries.

Cengiz Yılmaz, vice president of the Mayem Group, which encapsulates five firms doing business in such fields as construction, PVS systems and architecture, said his group has been doing business in Central Asia and the Balkans, but also reached out to the Middle East starting in 2006. Noting that work in northern Iraq to build shopping centers, hotels and the largest hospital in the region is under way, Yılmaz said they also won very large projects in Libya.

Kamil Yılmaz from the Arkyapı Group, largely involved in construction, told Today’s Zaman that they have been expanding to the Middle East in recent years and have engaged in very good business in countries in the region.
http://www.todayszaman.com/news-229488-turkish-arab-firms-meet-on-tuskon-bridge-to-expand-trade.html
 

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nop. not really.
every arab state can have a different opinion altogether, but i would see many disagreeing due to historical reasons.

egypt forexample has had way more better relations and alliances and joint roots with greece for instance, and even as late as mohammed ali would send troops to greece to aid its independence from ottoman rule. egypt itself branched off ottoman rule pretty early on.

arabia and the hashemite regions for example had a strong revolt against ottoman influence by people like faisal and lawrence. and wanted turkish ottoman influence out.

even in later history syria and the levant has had border disputes with turkey, albeit relations have been improving since syria wants to use turkey as a negotiator with israel.

turkey is by far a strong state and a key player in the region and a good example of positive growth and democracy, and of course it is necessary to have good economic and political relations. and there is no doubt of a common heritage of an islamic empire.

turkeys stand against israel and aid to palestine was quite admirable and admired in many arab states.

but id say thats about it. as far as sociopolitical realms are concerned i would say turkey is 'quite different' and many arabs would prioritize other global alliances.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
what the article is basically asking is that can Turkey using market capitalism influence middle eastern countries to come away from the dark side.
 

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That's the Arab world? Half of Lebanon is Christian and around 1/3 of Iraq is shiite and Gaza, yeah! Iran doesn't a good relationship as Turkey has to the Arab world, especially currenlty.
If I remember right- both Lebanon and Iraq are Arab nations and Gaza is Arab as well. Turkey's economical influence in the region might be significant but you can't compare it to the kind of Iranian influence which exists in the areas I mentioned.
What other nations are you talking about? The gulf nations (including Saudi Arabia) obviously don't need Turkey's economical aid, a similar thing can be said about Libya (correct me if I'm wrong on this one). Syria is an ally of Iran (again, despite its relationship with Turkey has become better- I doubt that it's as tight as its relationship with Iran). I've already talked about Iraq and Lebanon. So basically the most significant nation you can talk about is Egypt.
 

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^^ Iranian influence is more negative. The reaction from Arab countries is to how to reduce and restrict this influence.

I think what Messi is referring to is Iran's influence on the people in general which only affect shiites as he said.

what the article is basically asking is that can Turkey using market capitalism influence middle eastern countries to come away from the dark side.
If the west couldn't how would Turkey?

Turkey is almost non existent in the region.
 

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Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey to set up a free trade zone

Turkey and the Arab countries of Syria, Jordan and Lebanon have decided to establish a cooperation council to create “a zone of free movement of goods and persons” among them.

They invite all other interested countries to join what Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said shouldn’t be seen as an alternative to the European Union.

Mr. Davutoglu said Turkey is still eager to join the EU but that the bloc “cannot and should not restrict [Turkey's] relations with its neighbors.”

The deal was signed Thursday during the Turkish-Arab Economic Forum, where officials from Arab nations burst into applause as Turkey’s prime minister walked to the podium. Turkey’s popularity in the Middle East has risen amid disputes over Israel’s Gaza blockade and United Nations sanctions against Iran. WSJ



Photo: Foreign Ministers Ali al-Shami of Lebanon (L) , Ahmet Davutoglu of Turkey (C) and Walid Moallem of Syria
 

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Turkey's bid to raise influence in Middle East



Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu attends a meeting with his Kuwaiti counterpart in Kuwait City, 18 October 2010. Turkey is attempting to forge closer ties with other Muslim countries in the Middle East.

Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey plan to inaugurate a free-trade zone in 2011 as the first step towards the creation of a Middle Eastern version of the European Union. The move has reinforced concerns in the West that Turkey is turning away from a Western-oriented foreign policy. In fact, the recent shift in Turkey’s approach is the culmination of a process that began soon after the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002, and has accelerated since Ahmet Davutoglu was appointed foreign minister in May 2009.



The AKP has made considerable progress in forging closer economic and political ties with other Muslim countries in the Middle East. However, there are doubts about whether it can achieve the degree of integration envisaged by Davutoglu; not least because the foreign minister himself has made it clear that his inspiration lies not in the equal partnership of the modern EU but in the hegemonic structure of the Ottoman Empire. In an interview with Al Hayat newspaper on 1 October 2010, Davutoglu claimed that the foundations of the proposed new bloc lay in the shared experience of Ottoman rule. 'This cooperation, after all, is a product of our history,' he said.



Nostalgic ambitions

In 1994, while working as an academic, Davutoglu published a short book in English entitled Civilizational Transformation and the Muslim World. In it, Davutoglu maintained that the world was divided according to religious value systems and that Muslims were inherently superior to non-Muslims. He argued that the worldwide community of believers known as the ummah needed to cooperate in order to ensure that Islam became the 'determinant civilization' in the world, starting by forming regional economic blocs which would serve as the foundations for the economic integration of all Muslim countries. Davutoglu also advocated the creation of an exclusively Muslim security mechanism based on the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC).



In 2001, Davutoglu published his second book, this time in Turkish and entitled Stratejik Derinlik or 'Strategic Depth'. In it, he noted that since the foundation of the modern Turkish Republic in 1923, the country had largely ignored the countries of the Middle East and concentrated instead on forging closer links with the West. He called for the redress of this imbalance in the country's foreign policy, arguing that what he described as Turkey's 'historical legacy' required it to establish itself as a regional power in the centre of its own sphere of influence.



During the period between 2003 and 2005, there was a marked increase in both Turkey's contacts with other Muslim countries and the importance Ankara attached to the OIC, including vigorously lobbying to have a Turkish national, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, elected as OIC secretary general in 2004. But the AKP's main priority, both domestically and in foreign policy, was ensuring that Turkey was able to open accession negotiations with the EU in October 2005.



However, once the negotiations had officially begun, the AKP's enthusiasm for EU membership rapidly faded. The reality of Turkey's potentially imminent accession both galvanised opposition to Turkish membership from within the EU and brought home to the AKP the full implications of membership, not least the de facto loss of a substantial proportion of national sovereignty. The AKP's EU-inspired domestic reform programme came to an almost complete halt and the focus of Turkey's foreign policy shifted to the already ongoing process of building stronger ties with the countries of the Middle East. It was a process which provided both practical benefits – particularly in the previously largely untapped potential for bilateral trade – and psychological solace; the vision of regional preeminence inherent in the reinvigoration of Turkey's Ottoman legacy was in marked contrast to the discriminatory and demeaning manner in which many Turks felt they were treated by the EU. As a result, even though it has caused concern among some members of the country's pro-Western secular elite, the mass of the population has been broadly supportive of the AKP's focus on the Middle East – not least because it is regarded as restoring national pride.



For many in the AKP, the sense of post-imperial identification with – and historical responsibility for – the Middle East was given an added piquancy by the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003. Articles and public statements by AKP officials repeatedly contrasted what they claimed were the peace and social harmony enjoyed by the Middle East under the Ottomans with what they regarded as the chaos and carnage caused by Western – most recently American – meddling in the region; and concluded that the solution lay in Turkey playing a leading role in enabling the countries of the Middle East to solve their own problems.



Engagement and economics

Initially, the main focus of the AKP's increased engagement with the Middle East was on improving economic relations. Cross-border trade with Syria and northern Iraq grew rapidly and gave a major boost to the local economy in southeast Turkey, which has long been the most under-developed region of the country. With regard to Iraq, the primary objective of the AKP's policy was to weaken and isolate the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), which administers the predominantly Kurdish north of the country, in order to prevent it from issuing a unilateral declaration of independence. However, particularly from 2007 onwards, the AKP has concentrated on engagement both with the central government in Baghdad and with the KRG in the hope that, in addition to the economic benefits for Turkey, closer cooperation will give it the political leverage to dissuade the KRG from pushing for full independence.



Economic considerations also fuelled a growing rapprochement with Iran, as bilateral trade grew fivefold under the AKP to over $10 billion per year and Tehran became Turkey's second-largest supplier of energy after Russia. From 2004 onwards, the two also began to cooperate on security issues as the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) resumed its insurgency in Turkey after a five-year ceasefire, while its affiliate, the Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK), launched a rebellion in Iran. In addition to sharing intelligence on the movements of Kurdish militants, Tehran and Ankara also sometimes coordinated both military operations against rebel units inside their respective borders and artillery bombardments of PKK and PJAK positions in northern Iraq. Even today, despite the organisation being proscribed by both the EU and the US, Iran remains the only country to have extradited a suspected PKK militant to face trial in Turkey.



Yet, although AKP politicians publicly stressed the importance they attached to good relations with Iran, they were careful to avoid being seen as aligning themselves with Tehran against the West. Indeed, until late 2008, Turkey tried to preserve cordial relations with all the countries in the Middle East, including Israel, despite AKP officials' condemnations of Israel's policies towards the Palestinians. The Israeli and Turkish militaries continued to conduct joint exercises and Israeli companies won a series of lucrative defence contracts. The relationship even survived the war between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006, a conflict which triggered widespread anti-Israeli – and sometimes anti-Semitic – public protests inside Turkey.



One of the main reasons for Turkey's attempt to maintain good relations with all of its Middle Eastern neighbours was that the AKP was anxious to prove both to the international community and to the Turkish electorate its ability to succeed where others had failed in brokering a regional peace agreement. Through 2007 and 2008, Davutoglu, while serving as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's foreign-policy adviser, conducted indirect peace negotiations between Israel and Syria. But the initiative collapsed in December 2008 when Israel launched a military incursion, codenamed Operation Cast Lead, into Gaza just days after assuring Turkey that no such operation was imminent. Although the Israelis could cite the necessity of operational security, for both Erdogan and Davutoglu, their disingenuousness was an insulting betrayal of trust. In January 2009, Erdogan famously stormed out of the World Economic Forum summit in Davos, Switzerland, after publicly accusing Israeli President Shimon Peres of 'knowing very well how to kill'.



From dialogue to confrontation

Many had been prepared to dismiss Erdogan's outburst at Davos as a combination of his volatile temperament and playing to a domestic audience in the run-up to the local elections of 29 March 2010. However, he continued with his anti-Israeli rhetoric even after the elections in what appeared to be an attempt to boost his popularity, both domestically and in the region, by casting himself as the primary foreign defender of the Palestinian cause.



After Davutoglu's appointment as foreign minister in May 2009, the AKP began to move from words to action. In August 2009, it overrode protests from the Turkish military and banned Israeli warplanes from participating in the Anatolian Eagle exercises in Turkey. The AKP even demonstrated a willingness to become involved in internal Palestinian disputes, openly supporting Hamas in its long-running feud with the Fatah faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization.



Although it was later to deny direct involvement, the AKP also played a decisive role in the dispatch of the aid flotilla that attempted to breach the Israeli blockade of Gaza in May 2010. The organisation of the flotilla was coordinated by the radical Islamist NGO Human Rights and Freedoms (IHH). It was the IHH which bought the flotilla's flagship, the Mavi Marmara, from the AKP-controlled Istanbul Municipality ready to sail it to the Mediterranean port of Antalya to collect activists before continuing to Gaza. But safety inspections revealed serious problems with the vessel's stability, rendering it unseaworthy. As a result, the port authorities refused to allow the vessel to leave Istanbul, arguing that it would sink in a storm. But they were overruled by the AKP, which sent a blunt directive ordering them to allow it to sail; the ship was intercepted by Israeli commandos on 31 May 2010, resulting in the deaths of nine activists, of whom eight were Turkish nationals and the other was a Turkish-American who held a US passport.



Starting in 2009, the AKP also adopted a more confrontational approach towards the West over Iran. Erdogan repeatedly opposed additional United Nations sanctions against Tehran and ridiculed suggestions that its uranium-enrichment programme was designed to create a weapons capability. On 17 May 2010, acting together with Brazil, Erdogan and Davutoglu held a press conference to announce that they had succeeded where others had failed, and had persuaded Tehran to agree to a deal that would make additional sanctions unnecessary. Under the terms of the deal, Iran would ship 1,200kg of low-enriched uranium to Turkey for storage, in return for foreign nuclear fuel for a research reactor. But Tehran would still have been left with enough uranium to make one nuclear weapon. As a result, the deal was rejected by the international community, which pushed ahead with plans for additional sanctions. On 9 June 2010, Turkey defied pressure from the US and joined Brazil in voting in the UN Security Council against the imposition of additional sanctions on Iran; the measures were nevertheless passed by a margin of 12 votes to 2, with Lebanon abstaining.



The following day, at a meeting of the Turkish Arab Cooperation Forum in Istanbul, a visibly angry Davutoglu fiercely condemned both Israel and the UN sanctions against Iran. He then announced that Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria had provisionally agreed to abolish all mutual visa requirements and establish a quadrilateral free-trade zone as the first step towards the creation of an economic and political bloc of Muslim nations, just as he had advocated in 1994.



An ambition too far?

In recent months, both Davutoglu and Erdogan have dismissed suggestions in the Western media that Turkey is moving away from the West. However, the energy that Davutoglu has devoted to pushing ahead with plans for a free-trade zone in the Middle East stands in marked contrast to the AKP's apparent lack of interest in attempting to revive Turkey's stalled EU accession bid or repair its damaged ties with the US.



With little prospect of a rapprochement with Israel, Turkey has already lost – for the foreseeable future at least – its once-proud claim to be the only Muslim country with close ties with the Jewish state. However, despite the current concerns in the US and the EU, there are limits to how far Turkey can distance itself from the West.



Although Turkey has pledged to abide by the latest UN sanctions on Iran, it has refused to implement the additional sanctions against Iranian financial institutions currently being applied by the US and the EU. While in practice most private banks in Turkey are implementing both, they have come under intense pressure from AKP officials to ignore the additional sanctions, even though doing so could seriously damage their operations, as well as their relations with other financial institutions, particularly in the US and the EU.



Critically, Turkey's 1996 Customs Union agreement with the EU obliges it to apply the EU's tariff regime to any trade with third countries. As a result, Turkey cannot establish a free-trade zone with other Muslim countries unless they already have such an agreement with the EU. Nor is the Customs Union with the EU something that Turkey can afford to jeopardise. Although the rates have fallen slightly in recent years, the EU still accounts for 46% of Turkey's exports and 88% of its foreign direct investment.



However, perhaps the most serious obstacle to the AKP’s ambitions comes from within the region. Iran, while now benefiting from the AKP's support over its nuclear programme, has no desire to see Turkey establish itself as the leading Muslim country in the Middle East. Tehran has long coveted this role for itself, deploying the same two main instruments with which to boost its regional standing as Turkey – antagonism to the West and Israel, and support for the Palestinians. Similarly, despite their shared history with Turks and a genuine desire for closer ties with Turkey – particularly in the economic sphere – few Arabs have any desire to witness the return of a neo-Ottoman sphere of influence in the Middle East.
http://www.iiss.org/publications/st...urkeys-bid-to-raise-influence-in-middle-east/
 

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If Turkey was exporting secularism, I would support it. But this is no good. Iran's influence maybe extremely negative, but at least it's overt...what the AKP is doing is hiding subliminal religious messages under a shroud of trade relations and populist political slogans about Palestine or whatever else gets people riled up (the old Saddam Hussain trick)
 

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