With Trade Dipping, Turkey Works to End Isolation

Turkish exporters say they have become a casualty of what analysts describe as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s aggressive foreign policy. Turkey’s relations with its Saudi partners suffer as a result of Ankara’s push to exert its influence in the Mediterranean and in Africa. Exporters say they are being shut out of Middle Eastern markets — prompting Turkey to start changing its approach.Turkish companies like industrial boilermaker Erensan are paying a heavy price for Turkey’s strained relations across the Middle East and North Africa, says Erensan’s CEO Ali Eren.”We shifted, so to speak, from the Middle East,” said Eren. “With Saudi Arabia also not good relations, Egypt not good relations, so we shifted a little bit to the East to Indonesia for example and to Bangladesh which turned out to be good markets for us as well. But it’s not automatically done because we have to work first to get into the market.” FILE – Couple walks along Istiklal Street at the popular touristic neighbourhood of Beyoglu after a partial weekend curfew started during the COVID-19 outbreak in Istanbul, Turkey, Nov. 21, 2020.Reports of a Saudi trade boycott has hit Turkey’s massive textile industry, which supplies many of the big international brands. Egypt has sided with Saudi Arabia in a growing, bitter rivalry.International relations expert Emre Caliskan at the University of Oxford says Turkey sees Riyadh as thwarting its efforts to penetrate North African markets.”Turkey wants to be an economic player in the region. Turkey has an export orientated economy,” said Caliskan. “So whenever Turkey started have a better relationship with some countries this could be Morocco and Algeria. They always found a country trying to position itself towards Saudi Arabia.People wearing masks for protection against the spread of coronavirus, walk in the Spice Market, or the Egyptian Bazaar, in Istanbul, Nov. 17, 2020.”The Turkish leadership and the Saudis felt the need to reassess the situation and to be able to start a dialogue in their interest as you said, maybe it could be the start of a normalization of relations with Cairo, why not?,” he said.With Ali Eren’s boiler business is still counting the cost of Turkey’s regional isolation, Eren welcomes talk of a rapprochement.”Egypt has been a loss for us, but we are not worried it’s going to come back on us again because politics change,” said Eren.For exporters like Eren who are also reeling from the pandemic, repairing ties with the Saudis cannot come soon enough.

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