Libmonster ID: TR-1258
Author(s) of the publication: I. I. IVANOVA


Candidate of Historical Sciences

KeywordsTurkeyAnkara and the Middle EastArab revolutions

Since the Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002, Turkey has made significant strides in consolidating its status as a regional power. After relative passivity in the Middle East region, Ankara has begun to show itself as an important diplomatic actor here.

On the foreign policy front, Turkey is actively developing constructive relations with most Arab countries, including Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Kuwait, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain. Turkish President A. Gul, Prime Minister R. Erdogan and his cabinet ministers often visit Arab countries to strengthen political and economic relations.

2011 started quite actively in this regard. Immediately after the end of the conference of ambassadors, which was held in Ankara on January 3-9, the Turkish President visited Yemen, while the Prime Minister visited Kuwait and Qatar. Official delegations included representatives of the Turkish business community.

The visits of Turkish leaders aroused great interest not only in the region, but also abroad. Special attention was drawn to the very harsh statements of the top officials of the state and the projects initiated by them. Among them, the biggest resonance was caused by Turkey's proposals in connection with Iran's nuclear program, and the aggravation of relations with Israel due to the blockade of the Gaza Strip, which continues to this day.

The international interest generated by these visits is also fueled by the "wise country" thesis put forward by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (this term was first used in his speech at the January conference of ambassadors), which implies "more active and results-oriented steps" by Turkey aimed at strengthening bilateral relations in the region3.


Since the beginning of 2011, many countries in the Middle East and North Africa, in particular Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen and Libya, have been gripped by a wave of popular discontent, which has resulted in mass riots and protests against the current regimes in these countries. Popular uprisings have already led to the downfall of the ruling regimes in Egypt and Tunisia.

In the first days of events in Ankara, the "policy of silence" and the "wait and see"approach prevailed. The initial statements of R. Erdogan and Foreign Minister A. Davutoglu were aimed at the need to develop democracy in the region, which meant that Turkey took a neutral position based on the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of the state.

After the resistance of the Egyptian people in the central at-Tahrir square in Cairo intensified, Prime Minister Erdogan made a statement during a visit to Kyrgyzstan (in early February), emphasizing that it is necessary to listen to the voice of the Egyptian people, and democracy must win.4 He did not say that Mubarak and his team should leave, as the protesters wanted, but he did not defend the Mubarak regime.

As Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu noted, the collapse of the state order cannot be allowed in Egypt or in any other country. As an example, he cited Iraq, where after the occupation of the country by the United States of America, it was necessary to prevent the collapse of the main state institutions - the army, police and special services-in order to prevent the possibility of civil war and not expose the people to social, political, economic and physical danger.5

At the beginning of the events, Ankara's position on Egypt could be described as carrying out "reforms in conditions of stability." Among these reforms, according to Ankara, are the following: President Mubarak will leave office in a dignified manner; an interim government will be established in the country, in which all segments of the people are represented; a new Constitution will be drawn up; elections will be held in September 2011, after the end of Mubarak's term; and then the process of developing a democratic society will begin. to carry out fundamental reforms in order to resolve socio-economic problems.

However, all this did not mean that Ankara was completely out of the current events. Turkish leaders, taking into account the risk of a negative reflection of events in their own country, indirectly made efforts to implement "reforms in an atmosphere of stability" in the countries of the Middle East that were gripped by unrest. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has had several conversations with US President Barack Obama, and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has held a meeting with President XI Jinping. Clinton talks on the phone and a one-on-one meeting. On the other hand, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood has been in constant contact with its supporters in Turkey. The representative of the Muslim Brotherhood organization in Turkey, Eshref Abdulgaffar, said in a statement on the TPT TV channel:-

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commitment to "reforms in an atmosphere of stability" 6.

Shortly after the resignation of President H. Mubarak and the transfer of power to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), Turkish President A. Gul paid a one-day working visit to Cairo on March 3. According to Gul's statement, the purpose of the visit was to express support for the Egyptian people as they entered a new stage in their history.7 Thus, according to the Turkish political scientist S. Cohen, the Turkish President showed solidarity with the Egyptian people and expressed support for the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.8

The most important aspect of the visit was Atul's meeting with the Chairman of the Armed Forces of Egypt, M. H. Tantawi, and the leaders of the main opposition groups. A. Gul noted that the military had an important mission to contribute to the early transition of Egypt to a democratic order and parliamentarism, creating conditions for holding free elections, and transferring power to the civilian leadership. Ankara is ready to share its experience in the process of Egypt's transition to democratic rule. And in the foreseeable future, all conditions can be created for cooperation between the two countries.9

The Egyptian and Arab press, emphasizing the importance of A. Gul's visit to Egypt, quoted him as saying: "It is imperative that Egypt once again achieve political and economic stability and once again become an important actor in the region." 10


The question of the" Turkish model " and whether it can become a model for democratic movements in Arab countries is being discussed in diplomatic, academic circles, and in the press. So, Deputy Prime Minister of Great Britain Clegg pointed out that Turkey is an important model for the countries of the region. Clegg said in particular: "Turkey, which has a majority Muslim population and is a NATO member seeking EU membership, with a dynamic multi-party democracy, is an important model for Arab countries." 11

An opinion poll conducted by the Turkish Economic and Social Research Foundation in seven Arab countries (Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Saudi Arabia) and Iran on a range of issues including: "Turkey's role in the Middle East; Turkey and EU membership; Turkey as a model for other countries", - gave the following results: 75% of respondents have a positive view of Turkey in such areas as diplomacy in the region, economy, Turkey and democracy. Notably, 78% believe that Turkey should play an even greater role in the region. " 12

According to respondents, Turkey, considered as a democratic country, will soon become a real economic force in the region, given its success in developing the economy.

Democracy, Islam, economy, and foreign policy are four important indicators that reflect the current perception of Turkey in the Middle East. Do these elements make Turkey a "model"? Many people think so. But Turkey does not position itself as a "model" for anyone. Both Turkish President A. Gul, Prime Minister R. Erdogan,and other officials of the ruling AKP in the country have stated this more than once. 13

Most Arab countries face the following challenges: improving public administration, fighting corruption, building democratic institutions, holding free and fair elections, and implementing more effective economic policies. But the Arab countries, according to the Turkish researcher I. Kalyn, do not need Turkey or another country to implement them.14

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in an interview with the German newspaper Rheinische Post on February 26, 2011, when asked what place Turkey can take as a Muslim country and whether it can become a model for Arab countries, said: "Of course, we have closely followed developments in this region... Although Turkey shares a common culture, tradition and history with Arab countries, each country has its own differences, and therefore it is not expected that all countries in the region will use a specific model... Turkey will support the efforts of the countries of the region on the path of reforms and is ready to share its experience. Our country demonstrates the possibility of co-existence of democracy, modernization and Islam. As part of Europe, Turkey is a member of many Western organizations, but it also has deep ties with Middle Eastern countries. " 15

According to a well-known political commentator in Turkey, R. Turman, the events that began in Tunisia in early 2011 and led to the overthrow of Ben Ali, and

page 7

After Mubarak's rule in Egypt, the domino effect spread to other Arab countries16.


However, the "domino principle" has its own peculiarities in a particular country. Although Ben Ali and H. Mubarak opposed popular demonstrations, the changes in these countries took place without much blood and in a short time. Meanwhile, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, relying on the armed forces loyal to him, tried to put down the uprising and stay in power. The fact that the country is on the brink of disaster is largely the fault of Gaddafi himself.17

Libya faces the threat of chaos and division. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stressed that Turkey cannot remain indifferent to popular movements in Arab countries, while accusing the West of showing its indifference by giving preference to "oil and markets". On the other hand, he spoke out against "external intervention in Libya."18 In a telephone conversation with Gaddafi and his son, R. Erdogan tried to give them advice, but received no results. Despite this, R. Erdogan continued to insist that "changes in the Arab world should go ahead without external interference." 19

On the night of March 18, 2011 The UN Security Council adopted Resolution No. 1973 on Libya and imposed a ban on all flights over Libya, except for humanitarian flights. The UN Security Council also authorized "any actions to protect civilians", which gave NATO countries a free hand.

Turkey expressed its support for the UN Security Council resolution and called for an end to violence against civilians.20

Following the adoption of the resolution, the US Secretary of State, EU representatives, the UN and Arab League Secretaries-General met in Paris to discuss further steps regarding Libya. On March 19, French planes began bombing Libya.

Turkey has taken a vacillating position. Speaking out against foreign intervention, Ankara supported the UN Security Council resolution. But since "in the eyes of world public opinion, "writes Milliyet columnist R. Turmen," Turkey is seen as a supporter of Gaddafi, it was not invited to the Paris summit, although, as a rule, it was invited to various EU meetings."21

The launch of air strikes by the international coalition on the territory of Libya was criticized by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who noted that Ankara "shows increasing concern about the current situation in this North African country"22.

Speaking in Parliament on March 22, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said :" We support that the problems of Libya should be solved by the people of this country, and not by external interference. Our concerns about the operation being conducted against Libya are highly justified. ...In the past, such operations did not bring any benefit, but on the contrary, led to an increase in casualties, turned into occupations, and damaged the unity of countries."

"I emphasize," Erdogan said, " that under no circumstances will Turkey become a party that will send weapons against the people of Libya." He also noted that relations between Turkey and Libya "are not based on oil or self-interest". Erdogan said that Ankara closely and constantly monitors the situation in Libya and regularly holds talks with interested countries.

Erdogan had a conversation with US President Barack Obama about the situation in Libya on March 21. The Turkish Prime Minister told him that on March 1, he personally called on Gaddafi to voluntarily leave his post and transfer power in Libya to those who are fully trusted in that country. "Turkey's policy is very clear. It will always support all efforts aimed at ensuring internal peace in Libya, " the head of the Turkish government said.23

"Turkey has taken a rather risky, but changed for the better position," writes Turkish political analyst M. Birand. In his opinion, the policy of doubt is a thing of the past. The following factors come to the fore: Turkey is against the use of weapons in Libya; Turkey is in favor of stopping military intervention in the region; Turkey is against a possible occupation operation; and Turkey is ready to participate in providing humanitarian assistance within the framework of NATO.

Such a position, M. Birand points out, will not satisfy either the Western coalition or help to play any influential role in the Libyan war:

page 8

"We must not forget that the Libyan events are still at an early stage, and it is not clear where the winds will blow." 24


"The winds of change in the region, on the one hand, give Turkey the opportunity to play an active role and strengthen its influence here, but, on the other hand, they create the risk of undermining close relations with some countries," writes Turkish political analyst S. Kohen. And from this point of view, in his opinion, the most critical country is Syria, which has recently become the scene of bloody events. "Indeed, Bashar al-Assad is ready to make some political and economic reforms, but it is very difficult to predict how much they can calm the people down." For Turkey, the Turkish researcher emphasizes, " it is very important both to carry out reforms in Syria and to maintain stability, that is, to preserve the rule of Bashar al-Assad. Otherwise, 1) the bilateral relations that have developed in recent years may be undermined; 2)a breakdown in stability in Syria will throw the regional balance into complete disarray; 3) it may stir up separatist feelings among Kurds in the north of the country."25

Another Turkish political analyst M. Birand, expressing concern about the events in Syria, points out that "if there is a leader who can really change Syria, it is only Assad. Young, open to reforms, well aware of what young people need. The only problem is whether he can get rid of the elderly team inherited from his father. And his other trump card is Turkey." Birand argues that if " Assad gets rid of the paranoia of the old team and listens to Ankara's advice, he will strengthen his position. And Prime Minister Erdogan wishes him well. And he is absolutely sincere in this, because a stable Syria under the leadership of Assad is in Turkey's interests. " 26

Turkey is closely monitoring the situation in Syria. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan held telephone talks with Bashar al-Assad, while Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu expressed the need for effective reforms in Syria for the peaceful transformation of the country through diplomatic channels and through the media. The trip of the head of the Turkish national intelligence service to Damascus received media coverage. Although no statement was made about the purpose of the trip, it can be assumed that they also concerned the reform process in Syria.

Turkey and Syria have long-standing neighborly relations, and multilateral relations have developed positively in recent years. It is impossible not to take into account the abolition of the visa regime between the two countries and the signing of many agreements in the socio-economic, trade, political and security spheres within the framework of the High-level Strategic Cooperation Council founded in 2009. Turkey's relations with Syria are important not only at the bilateral level, but also in the Arab-Israeli peace process, in regional issues related to Iraq, Iran, and Lebanon. 27

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu paid a visit to Damascus on April 6, 2011, where he met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Foreign Minister Walid Muallim. At the meetings, Davutoglu recalled that for Turkey, Syria is a key country in the Middle East, and stressed that "from the first days when the winds of change began to blow in the region, the Turkish side persistently called for the necessary reforms in Syria." 28 Davutoglu said that Turkey does not participate in the events taking place in Syria. It assumes the role of a mediator, which is an internal matter, but "everything that happens in Syria will have an impact on Turkey, and what happens in Turkey will have an impact on Syria." 29

Prior to his visit to Syria, Davutoglu visited Bahrain, where he met with Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman, Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed and representatives of the opposition. During the talks, the sides discussed the latest developments in the Middle East and Bahrain. In a statement issued after the talks, Davutoglu said :" We support the reforms in Bahrain that will make it stronger. We are against any religious differences here. If religious differences become the subject of politics, this creates serious problems. Religion should unite, not divide people. We attach great importance to the integrity, stability and prosperity of Bahrain."30

* * *

These are the main approaches of Turkey to the events in the Middle East, the results of which are very difficult to calculate at this stage.

1 In May 2010, when the United States reached an agreement with the permanent members of the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on Iran, Turkey and Brazil concluded an agreement with Tehran on uranium enrichment on their territory. In this regard, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu stressed that there is no need for sanctions now. However, Western countries did not think so. Speaking to the Foreign Affairs Commission, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said:: "In the issue of Iran's confrontation with the world community and the search for a solution, we highlight the sincere initiatives of Turkey and Brazil, but we urge the world community to prepare an effective package of shares" ( 201).

2 On June 9, 2010, Turkey, as an interim member of the UN Security Council, voted against sanctions against Iran, despite a personal call from US President Barack Obama. President of the United States Barack Obama to Prime Minister of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his request to support the UN Security Council resolution (Milliyet. 12.06.2010).

3 Radikal. 12.01.2011.

4 Milliyet. 03.02.2011.

5 Milliyet. 04.02.2011.



8 Milliyet. 05.03.2011.

9 Ibidem.


11 Zaman. 03.03.2011.

12 Today's Zaman. 11.02.2011.

13 Ibidem.

14 Ibid.


16 Milliyet. 18.03.2011.

17 Ibidem.

18 Ibid.

19 Ibid.


21 Milliyet. 21.03.2011.

22 http:/


24 Milliyet. 23.03.2011.

25 Milliyet. 29.03.2011.

26 Milliyet. 01.04.2011.




30 www.haber 3com/disisleri bakani-davutoglu-bahrein ziyareti751424h.htm


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