27 Ocak 2013 Pazar

Turkey - France struggle on Africa: Turkey Reinforces 'Hands Off' Policy on Mali


"I think this reflects some of the competition between Turkey and France. Prime Minister Erdogan just a few days before the Mali story broke out was in Niger, blasting at the former colonial power and trying to say that Turkey will not be like that," said Idiz. "There is a scramble for Africa and Turkey is very much part of this. It has opened quite a large number of embassies across Africa. So its clear that Turkey does see itself as a potent power."

In the past few years Turkey has opened 31 embassies across Africa, including one in Mali in 2010. The Turkish government has declared the continent as an economic priority. Since its initiation of the policy back in 2003 it has more than quadrupled its exports to the continent to more than $10 billion. And, earlier this month, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Gabon, Niger and Senegal. Previously, he headed to Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia and held talks in the Republic of South Africa regarding Turkey's Africa opening.

Turkish foreign Ministry spokesman Unal says it will pursue its concerns over the situation in Mali through the Organization of Islamic Conference, the OIC."

"We discussed possible steps to be taken by OIC on Mali; I expect that the issue of Mali will be one of the agenda items to be discussed in the next OIC summit in Cairo," he said.

Observers point out that with Mali's neighbors supporting France's intervention, Ankara may not find too much support among West African members. But diplomatic columnist Idiz says Ankara is likely to find backing from Arab nations at February's OIC summit.

"Turkish ambivalence is probably not too different to some Arab countries because of the Islamic dimension in all this," said Idiz. "Given that Mali is a predominantly Islamic country that there is a western intervention all of these factor in to the Islamic sensibilities given, this antipathy in the Islamic world to western countries intervening in Islamic countries, so that is part of it."

Analysts say Ankara's ambivalence over France's intervention is likely to raise eyebrows among its western allies, all of who are strongly supporting it. But in Turkey's pro government media the question is increasingly being posed why those allies can back an intervention in Mali against an Islamic insurgency, but fail to do so in Syria.

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