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“Neo-Ottoman” Turkey?

ANKARA – Nowadays, the international media are obsessed with the question of who “lost” Turkey and what that supposed loss means for Europe and the West. More alarmingly, some commentators liken Turkey’s neighborhood policy to a revival of Ottoman imperialism. Recently, a senior Turkish columnist went so far as to quote Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu as saying that “we are indeed neo-Ottoman.”

As someone who was present when Davutoğlu made his presentation to the parliamentary faction of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), I can attest to the fact that he did not use such terminology. In fact, Davutoğlu and all of us in the AKP foreign-policy community never use this term, because it is simply a mispresentation of our position.

Turkey’s neighborhood policy is devised to reintegrate Turkey into its immediate neighborhoods, including the Balkans, the Black Sea, the Caucasus, the Middle East, and the Eastern Mediterranean. We aim to deepen our political dialogue, increase our trade, and multiply our people-to-people contacts with our neighbors in the form of sports, tourism, and cultural actvities. When Egon Bahr formulated his Ostpolitik in the 1960’s, no one asked Will Brandt whether Germany was lost.

God bestowed upon Turkey a geographical position that fundamentally requires for us to engage with East and West, North and South. This is neither a choice nor a luxury – it is a necessity.