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Arab Reactions to Turkey’s Regional Reengagement

During the first years of its tenure in office, as the AK Party focused on consolidating its position domestically, Turkey’s reengagement with the Arab world after decades of alienation took a largely unproblematic form. Inevitably, however, as Turkish activism deepened, conflicts of interest emerged both with other aspirants to regional influence such as Iran and Israel, and then – especially after the outbreak of the 2011 uprisings – with many Arab regimes as well. The future character of Turkey’s engagement with its Arab neighbors will depend on its ability to combine an adherence to a conception of community based on Islam rather than ethnic nationalism, with a commitment to democratization both at home and regionally.

Arab Reactions to Turkey s Regional Reengagement
Ahmet Davutoğlu, UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan and Mahmud Jibril who handles foreign affairs of Libyan Transitional National Council; pose before a meeting in Ankara on july 5, 2011. AFP / Adem Altan
 

The current map of the Middle East, and the political attitudes congruent with it, for the most part came into place with the Ottoman Empire’s collapse in World War I and the rise on its ruins of new nation-states modeled on – and in many cases, by – the triumphant Western powers. Unity thus gave way to division. As that map comes under growing pressure today, the story of Turkish-Arab relations comes into view as a story of alienation and mutual rediscovery with profound implications for the future of the entire region.

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