Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has stated that Turkey and Egypt could create a new axis of power at a time when American influence in the Middle East seems to be waning.
“This is what we want. This will not be an axis against any other country -- not Israel, not Iran, not any other country, but this will be an axis of democracy, real democracy,” Davutoğlu said in an interview with The New York Times on Sunday. “It will be an axis of democracy of the two biggest nations in our region, from the north to the south, from the Black Sea down to the Nile Valley in Sudan,” he added.
Davutoğlu was speaking with the US daily just before his departure for New York to attend the UN General Assembly, where Turkey is set to lend support to Palestine's bid for UN recognition.
The minister's remarks come after accompanying Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on a three-nation tour involving Egypt, Tunisia and Libya.
During the tour Erdoğan sought to use his prestige for lending support to the Arab uprisings as leverage for greater influence for Turkey in a region where, as the seat of the Ottoman Empire, it once ruled for centuries. Erdoğan received a hero's welcome in all three countries while impressing the peoples of those countries with his tough stance against Israel.
In Cairo, Turkey and Egypt established a high-level cooperation council similar to previous attempts with other regional Arab nations to facilitate trade and cultivate close relations as part of Turkey's increasingly assertive foreign policy to expand its political and economic interests in the region.
Davutoğlu predicted that Turkey's $1.5 billion in investments in Egypt would grow to $5 billion within two years and that the total trade volume would increase from the current $3.5 billion to $5 billion by the end of 2012, reaching $10 billion by 2015. Recalling that during the visit, the accompanying business delegation signed about $1 billion in contracts in a single day, Davutoğlu added, “For democracy, we need a strong economy.”
According to Davutoğlu, an alliance between Turkey and Egypt is a force for stability.
“For the regional balance of power, we want to have a strong, very strong Egypt. Some people may think Egypt and Turkey are competing. No. This is our strategic decision. We want a strong Egypt now,” he said.
Referring to bilateral relations that have become strained with Israel and Israel's increased distance with the region, he said: “Nobody can blame Turkey or any other country in the region for its [Israel's] isolation. It was Israel and its government's decision to isolate themselves. And they will be isolated even more if they continue this policy of rejecting any proposal.”
Davutoğlu, meanwhile, also expressed deep disappointment over the fact that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad failed to carry out reforms although he gave him his personal assurance that he would do so during a lengthy meeting held in Damascus last month.
When asked if he felt betrayed, Davutoğlu replied, “Yes, of course.”
Ankara has constantly pressured Syria to end a violent crackdown on protests and appealed to Assad not to wait to implement reforms until it was too late. Yet, eventually Turkish leaders stated that they had lost confidence in Syria and that the situation had reached a point where any changes would be too little too late.
“This is the illusion of autocratic regimes. They think that in a matter of a few days they will control the situation. Not today, but tomorrow, next week, next month. They don't realize this. And this is a vicious circle,” Davutoğlu said.
Turkey says seeking new axis of power with Egypt