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Turkey: Foreign relations

Why Turkey has no friend


The country is fast losing its clout in the Muslim world
AMIR HOSSAIN | Issue Dated: September 8, 2013, New Delhi
Tags : Turkey | Middle-East region | Recep Tayyip Erdogan |

Having an effective foreign policy is very important for a nation that wants to leverage its influence far and wide. For a nation like Turkey, which has always tried to bridge the gap between the Muslim world and Europe, its innovative foreign policy based on “zero problems with neighbours” was once widely applauded. As a result, it was able to enhance its business links in the Arab world extensively. At the same time, thanks to the strength of its foreign policy, it also played a significant role in resolving some of the toughest disputes in the Middle-East region – Syria vs. Israel, Fatah vs. Hamas, and Pakistan vs. Afghanistan – to name just a few. As late as 2011, the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was welcomed like a Hollywood superstar when he visited Cairo after the revolution that overthrew then Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

In recent months however, Turkey seems to have lost its healing touch. So much so that today the country seems to have “zero friends” rather than “zero problems.” Maybe Turkey’s eager meddling in the affairs of the Arab world has not gone down well with many of its Muslim neighbours. After all, having zero problems with neighbours entails keeping your nose out of other countries' domestic affairs. In the case of Turkey, it was anything but. Turkey followed its “zero problems with neighbours” policy untill Muammar al-Qaddafi's downfall in Libya in 2011. But the Arab Spring revolution compelled Turkey to junk its policy of non-interference. Ever since, relations between Turkey and Egypt have deteriorated day by day.

Both nations have pulled their ambassadors out from each other’s country.  Moreover, Erdogan has severely criticised the new military government in Egypt saying that "There is no difference between Bashar [al-Assad] and [Egyptian army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi]." Repudiating the state of affirs in Egypt, Erdogan observed: "I am saying that state terrorism is currently under way in Egypt." Not surprising that Egypt has taken umbrage at such remarks. Egyptian spokesperson has called Erdogan an “European Agent.” Egypt's Interim Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy has warned Turkey by saying that "a non-Arab state can't head the Arab Islamic world.”

But the irrepressible Erdogan refuses to stop. Now he has dragged Israel into the dispute by indicating that Israel was behind the coup in Cairo. Also, Turkey seems to have severed all ties with Syrian President Assad. As if these developments were not enough, Turkey has endangered its relations with the European Union as well. Even the American Press has re criticised Erdogan for his skewed foreign policies. Gradually, Turkey is perceived as a partisan actor rather than a neutral problem solver by other nations. It will take a lot of work and goodwill for Turkey to recover its image once again.


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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017