Davutoglu to 'NYT': Ankara seeking Turkey-Egypt alliance

Turkish FM says he wants to create a new axis of power in the Middle East at time of falling US influence in region.

Davutoglu 311 R (photo credit: REUTERS/Osman Orsal)
Davutoglu 311 R
(photo credit: REUTERS/Osman Orsal)
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that Ankara is seeking a partnership between Turkey and Egypt that will create a new axis of power in the Middle East at a time when US influence in the region is waning.
“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,” Davutoglu said in an interview published in Monday's New York Times. “That 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.

RELATED:
Turkish PM starts 'Arab Spring' tour in Cairo
Erdogan threatens to send gunboats with next flotilla

Davutoglu predicted increased economic cooperation between the two countries, saying Ankara's $1.5 billion investment in Egypt would rise to $5 billion within two years, and total trade would grow from its current $3.5 billion to $5 billion.

“For the regional balance of power, we want to have a strong, very strong Egypt,” Davutoglu stated. "Some people may think Egypt and Turkey are competing. No. This is our strategic decision. We want a strong Egypt now.”
The plan for increased investment and business between the two countries was echoed by Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf last week during a visit to Cairo by his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Erdogan received a hero's welcome upon his arrival in Egypt, his first stop on a regional tour that also took him to Tunisia and Libya. Erdogan’s confrontational policy with Israel- topped off with remarks made on the eve of his visit that Israel’s raid on the Mavi Marmara last year was a casus belli –  won him fans in the Arab Street. The crowds greeting him waved the flags of Egypt, Libya and Turkey. Some chanted, “Egypt,Turkey - one fist,” while others raised large portraits of the leader captioned "Turkey-Egypt - hand in hand to the future.”
But, analysts say Erdogan’s regional ambitions can only come at the cost of Egypt’s standing as the Arab world’s leading power. Faced with a slumping economy and an uncertain political future, Cairo may be in a weak position to compete with Ankara, but it is likely to resist becoming the junior member of a partnership.
“This isn’t going to be an easy relationship to manage. These countries have been competitors in the game of regional influence, with Egypt wanting to play a lead role in the Arab world and Turkey trying to increase its influence,” Sinan Ulgen, director of Turkey’s Centre for Economic and Foreign Policy Studies (Edam) and a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Institution, told The Media Line.
David Rosenberg contributed to this report