Turkey seeks larger footprint in Africa

Much like China, Turkey is selling its economic ambitions as beneficial to Africa

Turkey seeks larger footprint in Africa as tensions with West and region’s countries rise

Erdogan in Mali

Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, right, decorates Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with his country’s highest state medal during a ceremony at the presidential palace in Bamako, Mali, Friday, March 2, 2018.

Erdogan’s effort to widen Turkey’s military network generated concern in parts of the region – The Arab Weekly

WASHINGTON – Seeking to expand its regional political and military influence, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan embarked on a 5-day swing through Algeria, Mauritania, Senegal and Mali, a move bound to antagonise other actors in the region. In late 2017 Erdogan toured Sudan, Chad and Tunisia.

Turkey’s row with the West over Syria has deepened as Ankara angrily criticised France and the United States for demanding that Turkey halt its offensive in the north-west Syrian region of Afrin.

Erdogan’s effort to widen Turkey’s military network generated concern in parts of the region. During his trip to Khartoum in December, Sudan and Turkey agreed that Ankara would rebuild a former Ottoman port city on Sudan’s Red Sea coast and construct a dock to maintain civilian and military vessels, triggering criticism from Cairo. Ankara also plans to build a military base in Djibouti to add to its military installations in Somalia and in Qatar, which have riled Arab Gulf countries.

[Erdogan] needs a new space because he’s out of manoeuvring space,” said Selim Sazak, a non-resident fellow at the Delma Institute, a think-tank in Abu Dhabi. Turkey is on the wrong side of almost everyone” in the region.

During his visit to Mauritania, Erdogan offered to share our experience in the field of defence,” Turkish news reports said. He announced that Turkey would donate $5 million to a regional force battling terrorism and trafficking in the Sahel.

With the Turkish pledge, a total of $515 million has been offered by several countries, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the United States, to back the G5 Sahel effort spearheaded by France.

In Africa, the Turkish leader contrasted his approach with that of Europe’s former colonial powers, saying Turkey is not out for one-sided gains but for mutual benefits.

We want to march side by side with Africa,” Erdogan said in Mauritania. He repeated his criticism of the US decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, part of a narrative aimed at bolstering his leadership stature in the Muslim world by acting as a defender of the faith.

In a speech in Mauritania, Erdogan called the host country a land of Quranic schools, a land of the learned and the hafiz,” referring to Muslims who have learned the Quran by heart.

Emre Caliskan, of Oxford University in the United Kingdom, noted in an interview with Voice of America that 50% of African countries come from Muslim backgrounds and this gives leverage to Turkey in the eyes of Europe, in the eyes of the West and in the eyes of Africa.”

In the Maghreb, Turkey is interested in the potential back-channel role of Algeria, said William Lawrence, a former US diplomat who teaches at George Washington University. In recent years, Algiers has served as a quiet mediator between Turkey and the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad. I’m sure Algeria will continue to mediate,” Lawrence said.

Turkey and Algeria share a common concern over Egypt’s role and a willingness to engage Islamists in Libya and neither is enthusiastic about France’s active anti-terrorism strategy in the Sahel.

Turkey has been systematically expanding ties with Africa for years. The number of Turkish embassies in Africa has increased from 12 to 41 since 2003. Flag-carrier Turkish Airlines has 52 connections on the continent. Erdogan has visited about 30 countries there, Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency reported.

Economic relations were another goal of the Turkish leader, who was accompanied in Africa by a large Turkish business delegation. Turkey’s foreign direct investment in the continent skyrocketed from $100 million in 2003 to $6.5 billion in 2017,” noted Anadolu.

Turkey has no oil or gas resources and is keen to diversify imports to ease dependence on Russia and Iran. Algeria’s role as a supplier could grow, especially because Turkey has started to operate two ships that serve as floating storage and regasification units for liquefied natural gas. Turkey is also looking for new markets for its food and construction industry, Sazak said.

Erdogan praised Algeria as an island of political and economic stability in the region” and as Turkey’s first trading partner in Africa.” He said both countries wanted to boost their bilateral trade volume to $10 billion, from $4 billion at present.

Another goal for Erdogan was to persuade African countries to close schools run by the network of Fethullah Gulen, a US-based Islamic cleric accused by Ankara of being the mastermind behind the attempted coup in Turkey in 2016. Gulen denies the accusation.

Thanks to our efforts, many countries have now shut down FETO-affiliated schools and handed them over to the Maarif Foundation,” Erdogan said before leaving on his visit. He was referring to the Gulen movement and an educational foundation created by Ankara in 2016.
Source: by Thomas Seibert, Al-Arab, March 04, 2018
Source Description: English edition of an Arabic-language newspaper, covering Arab affairs, features, culture, business and entertainment. Country of origin: United Kingdom
© 2018, Al-Arab, All rights Reserved.

Erdogan moves to expand arc of influence in North Africa, Sahel

Much like China, Turkey is selling its economic ambitions as beneficial to Africa – The Arab Weekly

WASHINGTON – Facing a series of crises in its relations with the West and increasing isolation in the Middle East, Turkey is seeking ties further afield. It has extended military and political associations to Africa in a sign that Ankara is determined to expand its zone of influence.

After establishing a foothold in Sudan and reinforcing his presence in the Horn of Africa, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan turned his sights on North Africa and the Sahel region when he embarked on a visit to Algeria and three West African countries on February 26.

Turkey’s ties with the West dimmed over the refusal by the Czech Republic to extradite Salih Muslim, a leader of a Syrian-Kurdish group that Ankara views as a terrorist organisation. Turkish government spokesman Bekir Bozdag accused the West of ignoring terrorism if victims were Turks or Muslims.”

Turkey also rejected calls by France and the United States to extend a UN-ordered ceasefire in Syria to Afrin. Ankara is at odds with the United States over Washington’s support for Syria’s Kurds and is facing growing criticism from Europe over Erdogan’s crackdown on dissent and a standoff with Cyprus over hydrocarbon rights in the eastern Mediterranean.

Instead of turning East, Turkey is going it alone,” Nicholas Danforth, a senior political analyst at the Bipartisan Policy Centre, a Washington think-tank, wrote in an analysis for War on the Rocks, a website on security matters. The West is in real danger of losing Turkey but this has not resulted from, or been accompanied by, improved relations between Turkey and any of its Eastern neighbours,” Danforth added.

Erdogan’s action in Afrin shows a Turkish leader ready to use military means to achieve his objectives, a fact that is hardly reassuring to the West and regional powers. Only three months ago, Turkey increased its military presence overseas when it reached an agreement with Sudan to modernise a former Ottoman fort on the Red Sea to include new naval base facilities. Turkey already has bases in Somalia and Qatar.

Turkey’s military ambitions are stoking tensions between Ankara and Cairo. The two countries downgraded diplomatic ties following the ousting of Egyptian Islamist President Muhammad Morsi in 2013. Erdogan has avoided all contact with Morsi’s successor, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and has been greeting supporters at rallies with the four-fingered Rabia sign, used by the Muslim Brotherhood to protest Morsi’s overthrow.

The Turkish presence in the ports of the Red Sea is bad news not only for Egypt but also for Saudi Arabia,” analyst Einat Elazari wrote in a report for Global Risk Insights, a UK-based risk analysis publication.

Elazari said Qatar’s posture in the Gulf region combined with Turkey’s activity in the Red Sea represent a potential foundation for a new Turkey-Sudan-Qatar alliance,” especially considering their mutual support for the Muslim Brotherhood and relations with Iran.”

Elazari added: It is clear that the Turkish president intends to pursue opportunities for partnerships in Africa that will strengthen the country as a regional and international actor.”

Turkey also sees huge economic dividends to be reaped in Africa. Over the last 15 years, the trade volume between Turkey and African countries rose six-fold to $17.5 billion,” the Turkish news agency Anadolu reported.

Much like China, Turkey is selling its economic ambitions as beneficial to Africa. Turkish entrepreneurs generated 78,000 jobs in Africa and the value of projects undertaken by Turkish construction firms topped $55 billion,” Anadolu said.
Source: by Thomas Seibert, Al-Arab, March 04, 2018
Source Description: English edition of an Arabic-language newspaper, covering Arab affairs, features, culture, business and entertainment. Country of origin: United Kingdom
© 2018, Al-Arab, All rights Reserved.

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