President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan meets with Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban in Budapest, Hungary, Aug. 20, 2023. (Reuters Photo)

Erdoğan’s messages to the world upon his return from Budapest

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited Budapest on Sunday, along with heads of state and government from the Turkic states, the Balkans and Qatar, on the occasion of Hungary's national day.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited Budapest on Sunday, along with heads of state and government from the Turkic states, the Balkans and Qatar, on the occasion of Hungary’s national day.

In an interview with a group of Turkish journalists, which included myself, Erdoğan notably described Türkiye’s relations with Hungary as an “advanced strategic partnership.”

Seeking to increase their bilateral trade volume to $6 billion, the two countries will hold the sixth meeting of their High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council on Dec. 18 – the centennial of their friendship.

An important item on the agenda of Erdoğan’s Aug. 20 meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban related to the natural gas pipeline and liquefied natural gas (LNG) cooperation. It was also noteworthy that the guests included world leaders whom the Turkish president meets regularly and remains on good terms with.

The family picture from the celebrations in Budapest highlighted Erdoğan’s emergence as a leader promoting stability and cooperation in Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia.

Türkiye’s key role in global issues

Obviously, it is not lost on the Western media that Türkiye and Hungary came to see eye to eye on a broad range of issues, including NATO’s enlargement and energy, under their respective leaders. Prime Minister Orban faces criticism from Europe as his country faces sanctions regarding EU funds. It goes without saying, however, that the Hungarian leader remains one of the most clear-eyed politicians in Europe when it comes to Türkiye and Erdoğan’s crucial role vis-a-vis major developments in the international arena, European security, the war in Ukraine and asylum seekers. One must also take into account that any foreign leader seeking to pursue an autonomous foreign policy closely monitors Erdoğan as a role model.

Two issues featured prominently in Erdoğan’s responses regarding foreign policy: the state of Sweden’s bid to join NATO and Türkiye’s interest in Africa.

Recalling that Sweden must keep its promises for Türkiye’s Parliament to approve its request, Erdoğan made the following remarks: “First and foremost, Sweden needs to take control of its streets. If they do not control their streets and there are repeated attacks on our sacred values, then…”

Highlighting the unique values of the People’s Alliance, the Turkish president notably added that he won’t take any further steps “without consulting with (the Nationalist Movement Party Chairperson) Devlet (Bahçeli) and others.”

That statement clearly indicates that the green light that Sweden received at the Vilnius Summit did not guarantee prompt approval by Parliament. In other words, the People’s Alliance and the opposition will continue to participate in the ongoing debate over Sweden’s membership bid starting in October. Accordingly, Sweden should heed Erdoğan’s warning to refrain from undermining solidarity among the NATO allies.

Niger coup

In response to a question about the military coup in Niger, President Erdoğan reiterated Türkiye’s commitment to playing a “key role” in a peaceful resolution. Warning that military intervention by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) would cause instability to spill over to multiple African countries, he signaled his intention to double down on Türkiye’s “Africa opening” – based on the win-win principle.

In recent years, Türkiye has played a prominent role in North and East Africa by promoting peace and stability in Somalia and Libya, among others. Accordingly, the country also intends to make a diplomatic contribution to the peaceful resolution of West Africa’s problems. In other words, Türkiye acts in a unique way in Africa – a stage of great power competition.

The Turkish approach to African nations seriously differs from France, Russia, China and even the United States. Unburdened by the legacy of colonialism, Ankara disapproves of the destabilizing impact of private military companies. Instead, Türkiye wants investments in Africa to serve mutual interests and remains unhappy with terrorist organizations, military coups and proxy wars on the continent.

Going forward, we will witness attempts by the Turkish diplomatic establishment to try and play a “key role” in efforts to address Africa’s issues.

[Daily Sabah, August 23, 2023]

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