News / Africa

Analysts Warn of Tensions from Turkish PM's North Africa Tour

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, Sept. 8, 2011
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, Sept. 8, 2011
Dorian Jones

Turkey's prime minister has further ratcheted up tensions against Israel, warning that Turkish warships will escort any Turkish ship seeking to break Israel's blockade of Gaza. The crisis centers on Israel's refusal to apologize for last year's killing of Turkish activists who were part of a flotilla seeking to break the blockade. The prime minister's threat comes ahead of his planned trip Monday to North African countries.

In a television interview Thursday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said any Turkish ship seeking to break Israel's blockade of Gaza will be escorted by the Turkish navy. The threat comes after the prime minister had said Turkey would increase its naval presence in the eastern Mediterranean. The remarks come ahead of Erdogan's visit Monday to Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. Political columnist Soli Ozel says the escalating crisis will only confirm the fears of Israeli Foreign Minister Avi Lieberman.

"There lies a power struggle over the eastern Mediterranean," said Ozel. "The stakes are great. And in that, Lieberman is actually clearer than anyone else. He says Turkey wants to dominate us. It wants to be a regional power with global aspirations. I actually share his analysis, if not his views."

Erdogan's trip to North Africa could further inflame tensions with Israel, with the prime minister indicating he would like to visit Gaza and hold talks with its Hamas leadership. Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the European Union and the U.S. But such a visit is dependent on Egypt giving permission to use its crossing into Gaza at Rafa. International relations expert Cengiz Aktar says that could put Cairo's new government in a difficult position.

"We do not know yet whether the Egyptians have accepted that he crosses the border at Rafa," said Aktar. "They are re-evaluating their Israeli policy as well so they will decide within this framework of reevaluation of Egypt's new policy."

The Egyptian government's reluctance to grant Erdogan's request has caused reported irritation in Ankara. But it is believed Cairo is facing strong pressure from both Israel and the United States not to do so. The Gaza visit has drawn criticism in Turkey, along with claims the prime minister's North African tour is too premature, with all the countries to be visited in the process of a transition to democracy. But former Turkish diplomat Murat Bilhan says such a visit is important.

"It looks ambitious, maybe can materialize, maybe cannot be," said Bilhan. "But I mean the point is in question. Turkey is [a] regional power and should be seen as such by others."

During his visit to Egypt, Erdogan is reported to be confirming a naval cooperation agreement. Joint naval exercises also are expected to be on the agenda. Such moves will likely be seen as another threat to Israel and further flexing of Turkish military might in the region.

Trade also is expected to be a key issue during Erdogan's trip, in particular safeguarding Turkey's considerable business interests in Libya. International relations expert Aktar says Erdogan's tough stance against Israel will mean he will be well-received during his trip, but this should not be rated too highly.

"He will be cherished in the Arab street, but I don't think more than that," he said. "At the end of the day, Egypt is there, and Egypt considers Turkey as a challenger, not a partner yet. We'll see. I think there is a new equilibrium setting in the eastern Mediterranean. Turkey can be a positive, proactive in this new equilibrium, if it simply can ignore the bombastic and overconfident ways lecturing in the region."

During his trip to North Africa, Prime Minister Erdogan is expected to present Turkey as a role model to the region, with a booming economy and successfully transitioning to a democracy. But observers warn that while Erdogan's anti-Israeli stance will likely prove popular among Arabs, memories of Turkey as a former colonial master may mean there will be reluctance to grant any Turkish aspirations to become the regional leader.

You May Like

Mood Tense Ahead of Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, No voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve and do not want to take a risk by endorsing independence More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid