Erdoğan’s Mideast and African tour: putting Turkey on the map,
ARTICLE IN BRIEF: Over the past decade, Turkey has been endeavoring to carve out a major role for itself in political developments in Africa. Now, in the wake of the revolutionary uprisings of the Arab Spring -- those in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya in partic
In August and September, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan scheduled visits to Somalia, Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, suggesting that Ankara’s plans to boost its influence in the region have been taken up a gear. A successful foreign policy is measured in terms of a state’s ability to assert itself and consistently promote its interests within the international system. Crucial to the success of this is an understanding of power, its sources and an assessment of the means needed to achieve state goals. Equally important is an ability to forge these dimensions into a coherent foreign policy appropriate to the state in question, its particular material conditions and its position within the international system. It is within this framework that the new intensity in relations between Ankara, and North Africa and the Middle East should be viewed.
Beginning a theme that he would return to as he continued his tour of the Arab Spring countries, during his visit to Egypt Erdoğan called on all Arab nations to shift to a “secular state” model, citing Turkey’s as an example. The Turkish premier described Turkey as a democratic, secular and social state of law, defining a secular state as being one at an equal distance from all religious groups, be they Muslim, Christian, Jewish or atheist. In Egypt, Erdoğan met with FM Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, head of the ruling council that took over when former President Hosni Mubarak was toppled in February. Erdoğan also met with his Egyptian counterpart, Essam Sharaf. The two signed a political declaration to create a strategic council for economic cooperation, trade, investment and other accords.
Egypt has long viewed itself as a leading voice in the Arab world, but Turkey’s influence has risen steadily with its growing economic might and assertive foreign policy. It is likely that in the new order after the recent unrest, there will be rivalry over a leading regional role, but Egypt is no longer in a position to take on such a responsibility. Meanwhile, Ankara is trying to take advantage of the current power vacuum. Erdoğan’s rapturous welcome in Cairo on Sept. 12