Employees work on
a Turkish Airlines plane after its arrival at Aden Abdulle
International Airport in Somalia's capital Mogadishu, March 6, 2012
Voice of America
Monday, March 26, 2012
This month, Turkish Airlines became the first major commercial carrier
to fly directly to Somalia in more than 20 years. The move is the latest
high profile step Turkey has taken to extend its economic and political
influence on the African continent.
Turkish Airlines inaugural
flight to the Somali capital, Mogadishu, is the latest high profile move
in Turkey's commitment to the war-torn country.
Turkish Prime Minster Recep Tayyip Erdogan was the first Western leader
in decades to visit Somalia. Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag,
speaking to journalists on the flight to Mogadishu, stressed that his
country is committed to supporting efforts to bring peace to Somalia.
said there are serious security problems, which he says will not to be
solved in the short term. But he saidTurkish leaders have expressed
their opinions on what needs to be done to bring about peace and that
Turkey welcomes positive developments toward that end.
to Turkish media reports, Ankara is working to end fighting between
Islamist al Shabaab militants and the Somali government and African
Union forces. Turkish aid agencies are operating in both Somali
government and al Shabaab controlled regions. Ankara has also indicated
it is prepared to offer training and support to the Somali government.Turkish Foreign Ministry Spokesman Selcuk Unal said Turkey's efforts are part of a growing commitment to sub-Saharan Africa.
are so many frozen conflicts in Africa and we, as a country which has
always conducted steady relationships with the north part of it, [and]
we are trying establish concrete relations with the sub-Saharan
countries in the last decade," Unal said. "I think there is sincere
interest on our side to extend aid to those regions as well."
Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan has defended the Sudan's government
against accusations of genocide in Darfur, but Ankara has also worked to
defuse tensions between Sudan and newly independent South Sudan.
Islamist roots of Turkey's ruling AK party give it an advantage with
the emergence of new governments in the Arab spring countries, according
to SInan Ulgen, a former senior Turkish diplomat who now heads the
Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies, an independent think
tank in Istanbul. He saidTurkey's diplomatic efforts in Sub-Saharan
Africa are a logical extension of its deepening ties with Arab
"Given that most of these new actors will have an
association with political Islam, these are going to be the new rulers
of these countries and Turkey is in a very favorable position to
establish links with the new leadership of these countries," Ulgen said.
"In an as far [as] sub-Saharan Africa is concerned that is a new
geography for Turkey and the dynamic there is Turkey will increase its
economic opportunities. So Turkey is now opening up a host of new
embassies across Africa."
The expansion of embassies across the
continent coincides with a similar growth in work by TIKA, the Turkish
International Cooperation and Development Agency. There has also been a
major expansion in flights by Turkish Airlines to Africa. These
initiatives have led to a threefold growth in exports to Africa since
Mehmet Ardar, a Professor of International relations and
an expert on development in Africa, at Galatasaray University, said
Ankara is following a carefully balanced strategy toward the continent.
airlines and then the diplomatic services as well have opened [a] large
number of new embassies and each new embassy comes with a facilitation
of business by the Turkish investors and Turkish businessmen," said
Ardar. "The government actions, aid, diplomacy and business has gone
together. It is part of globalization and Turkey becoming a global
Ardar and other analysts saidTurkey's diplomatic and
commercial push into sub-Sharan Africa has made it a competitive player
in Africa - especially against other rising powers like China and India.