Observers say Turkey is trying to make use of Morocco’s geopolitical location to establish strategic ties with the North African country and through it gain access to the entire Black Continent.
According to political experts, the “Neo-Ottomans” are interested in the rise of Islamists in several North African countries especially as the Arab Spring is paving the way for their access to power and they are keen on playing a role in seeing this materialize.
The establishment of strong ties with those Islamist movements, they added, might also contribute to the possible victory of Turkey’s Islam-oriented Justice and Development Party in the upcoming parliamentary elections.
It is noteworthy that a few days ago, foreign ministers of Morocco and Turkey signed four agreements related to scientific and technological cooperation, mutual recognition of driver’s license, fishing coordination, sports and youth.
The agreements mark a new stage in Moroccan-Turkish relations, said Professor of International Relations at the University of Fes Saeid al-Sediki.
“This particularly applies to the establishment of a special bureau for deepening political and strategic dialogue between the two countries as well as plans to organize mutual visits throughout the coming year,” he told Al Arabiya.
The agreements, Sediki added, are considered the culmination of earlier ties between Morocco and Turkey and which started to become remarkably strong in 2004 when the two countries signed the Free Exchange Agreement.
According to Sediki, there are several common historical and geopolitical traits between Morocco and Turkey.
“This is manifested in their historical background and their strategic geographical location as well as their intricate relations with Europe and the fact that they are two pivotal states in the Muslim world.”
The recent strengthening of ties between Morocco and Turkey, Sediki explained, was rendered more pressing in the light of the latest developments in the Arab world.
“Turkey is now keen on having strong ties with the Arab countries that are playing a major role in shaping the future of the region and Morocco is one of those.”
Sediki pointed out that Morocco has been enhancing its diplomatic relations with its neighbors throughout the revolutions that took place in several Arab countries especially since the fall of many of those regimes was in its best interest.
“Morocco benefited from the fall of regimes that did not support the unity of Moroccan territories like in the case of Libya and regimes that supported Morocco yet blackmailed it like in the case of Tunisia.”
For Sediki, recent developments in post-revolution North Africa are among the factors that encouraged Turkey to make initiatives with countries in the region and on top of these factors is the rise of the Islamists.
“Islamists won the elections in Tunisia; they are playing an important role in shaping Libya, and there is a very big chance they might win a majority in Egyptian parliamentary elections.”
According to Sediki, Turkey is also keen on knowing what will happen in Morocco’s upcoming parliamentary elections.
“There is a possibility that the Justice and Development Party, which enjoys strong ties with its namesake in Turkey, will form the new government in Morocco. This will mean a lot for future Moroccan-Turkish relations.”
According to Idriss Buwanou, analyst on Turkish affairs, Turkey has for a long time been a marginal country for the Arab world since it was always considered to be part of the Western world.
“It was only when the Justice and Development Party came to power that this changed. After this, Turkey became a central country for Arab nations,” he told Al Arabiya.
Buwanou, author of “Islamists of Turkey: The Neo-Ottomans” explained that Turkey has now becomes a major player in the region and is considered partly responsible for its security.
“To be able to play this new role, Turkey needed to establish strong ties with its Arab neighbors and to expand cooperation on the political and economic levels.”
For Buwanou, this change of Turkey’s stance changed Arabs’ view of it as an ally to the United States and Europe and it is now regarded as a strategic partner in countries in the Caucasus, the Middle East, and North Africa.
“With the Muslim world in particular Turkey is privileged in the sense that it can invest its historical and cultural heritage to establish stronger ties with countries in the region and Morocco is one of them.”
Buwanou pointed out that historical ties between Morocco and Turkey, and which go back to the Ottoman era, will enable the two countries to engage in strategic relations and will allow Turkey to make Morocco its ticket to more countries.
“From Morocco, Turkey can also have access to all Africa.”
The way Turkey supported the Arab Spring, Buwanou added, also played an important role in strengthening relations with countries in the region.
“Turkey had a strong presence during the revolutions that took place in the Arab world and declared its support for them and its keenness on protecting revolutionary powers. This was obvious with Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and Syria.”
As for Morocco, Turkey is seeking to take part in the new policies that define the coming stage in the political scene in the kingdom
“Turkey wants to show its support for the new reforms that have been initiated bravely by Morocco,” he concluded.
(This article was translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)