Stop seeing Turkey-Maghreb relations through 'Western eyes,' say experts
by Ali Ünal
TUNISNov 24, 2016 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Ali Ünal
Nov 24, 2016 12:00 am
Experts have said that Turkey and the Maghreb countries should stop seeing each other through "Western eyes" and view each other through improved multidimensional cooperation. Turkey's leading think tank, the SETA Foundation, hosted a conference titled "Turkey and the Maghreb countries: Opportunities for mutual cooperation and future perspectives" in the Tunisian capital Tunis on Nov. 22.
Speaking at the third session of the event on Turkish foreign policy in the Maghreb countries, Professor Dr. Beril Dedeoğlu from Galatasaray University explained Turkey's policy within a historical context. She stressed that it is not an easy task to build strategic level partnerships and thus these countries should focus on practical solutions in bilateral relations. "We must ensure that different channels that would help to improve relations be open," Prof. Dedeoğlu said. "For instance, we should improve cooperation in anti-terrorism between our countries," she added.
Tunisian academic Zubeyr Halfullah stressed the importance of improving multidimensional relations instead of just focusing on economic relations. "We should develop a common language between our countries and we should also have a common civilization project," he said. İsmail Numan Telci from Turkey's Sakarya University emphasized his country's democratic experience, saying that Turkey can share its lessons from democratization with the Maghreb countries.
SETA Foundation's Ufuk Ulutaş said that Turkey's foreign policy in the Maghreb differentiates from one country to another due to the varied features of the countries in the region. He stressed the importance of improving economic interdependence in Turkey and the Maghreb countries. "We need to take steps to increase security cooperation. Our cooperation in this field will also have a positive effect on our economies," Ulutaş said. He further underlined the significance of the media's role in each other properly understanding the other, suggesting to Maghrebi academics that they follow Turkey's multi-language media outlets such as Daily Sabah and TRT World.
The moderator of the panel, Professor Muhittin Ataman from Yıldırım Beyazıt University in Ankara, said that Turks and the people from Maghrebi countries should overcome the negative effects of past misperceptions to improve relations further. "We should stop seeing each other through Western eyes and start to see each other through our own eyes," Ataman said, underlining that the importance of capacity problems should be taken into account in bilateral relations.