Erdoğan seeks influence in a region beyond former Ottoman lands - analyst

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s desire to expand Turkish influence goes well beyond the former territories of the Ottoman Empire, said Ambassador David Shinn, America’s former top envoy to Ethiopia and Burkina Faso. 

Turkey’s recent move to send troops to help the U.N.-recognised government in Tripoli fend off assault from forces loyal to General Khalifa Haftar cannot be interpreted as an effort to reestablish the Ottoman Empire with control over territory, Shinn said in an interview with the Public Radio International on Thursday.

“Well, if you were only looking at the former Ottoman area, I would say it was focused particularly on sort of the neo-Ottoman theme and reestablishing influence there,” he said.

“But because it goes well beyond that, I think it's an effort to establish not only political credibility, but have political influence in — and the political support of — as many countries as possible in forums like the United Nations, when it comes to issues like Cyprus, for example,” Shinn said. 

Turkey now has embassies in 42 out of 54 African countries, which is an astounding number for an economy the size of Turkey, the former diplomat said. 

But Ankara’s move to send military forces to Libya is nearly unique in the region, with the exception of a military facility in Mogadishu where Turkey is training Somali national army personnel, Shinn said. 

“Libya has had so many different crevices and cracks involved in it that I really wonder how this is going to play out,” he said. 

Turkey and its ally Qatar have lined up against Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Russia who support Haftar in Libya and this puts them in a very dangerous situation, Shinn said.