Feb 18 2018

Erdogan's outreach hints at Ottoman revival, and not always welcome

With Turkish troops in Qatar and Somalia, Turkish navy vessels patrolling the Gulf of Aden, and amongst speculation caused by the statements of leading  Sudanese and Djiboutian figures that Ankara might send its soldiers to Sudan and Djibouti, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan might be trying to revive the Ottoman Empire, says Jonathan Gorvett in an article he wrote for the Asia Times.

"For some, indeed, these new Turkish moves bring with them concerns of “neo-Ottoman” encirclement," says Gorvett, but, "in a region that has not seen such deployments since Turkey’s predecessor, the Ottoman Empire, ruled much of the Middle East, such a return is not always welcome."

Gorvett quotes United Arab Emirates (UAE) Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash objecting Turkish aspirations, and he is not the only one.  When Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt imposed a blockade on Qatar in June 2017, Ankara quickly stepped up to defend Doha at the expense of its relationship with the other three countries.

"Statements by President Erdoğan at home have not helped ease concerns in Cairo, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Bahrain," says Gorvett, "On February 10, the Turkish leader declared that the Turkish Republic was “a continuation of the Ottomans.”

The real reason behind Turkey's moves might be more practical says the veteran journalist. “I’m sure Turkey has been looking at this crisis as an opportunity. We can see this in the major number of business deals Turkey is making with Qatar.”

Indeed, amongst reports that The Turkish economy is headed towards a slow-down, Qatar, 2017, green-lighted some US$19 billion in investment in Turkey for 2018. Engagement with Somalia, on the other hand, helps enhance Turkey's Africa policy and provides new markets for Turkish products.

Unresolved tension, however, plagues the relationship among the Middle Eastern countries. But, “in this environment, Turkey is taking its own initiatives, becoming more active and more present,” said Aybars Görgülü, a researcher at the Center for Public Policy and Democracy Studies (PODEM) in Istanbul according to Gorvett's reporting.