Neo-Ottomanism (Turkish: Yeni Osmanlıcılık) is a Turkish political ideology that, in its broadest sense, promotes greater political engagement of the modern Republic of Turkey within regions formerly under the rule of the Ottoman Empire, its predecessor state.
It has been used to describe Turkish foreign policy under the Justice and Development Party which took power in 2002 under prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Neo-Ottomanism is a dramatic shift from the traditional Turkish foreign policy of the Kemalist ideology, which emphasized looking westward towards Europe in order to avoid the instability and sectarianism of the Middle East. The shift away from this concept in Turkish foreign policy under Turgut Özal's government has been described as the first step towards neo-Ottomanism.
The Turkish-led Ottoman Empire was an influential global power which, at its peak, controlled the Balkans, most of the modern-day Middle East, most of North Africa and the Caucasus. Neo-Ottomanist foreign policy encourages increased engagement in these regions as part of Turkey’s growing regional influence. Turkey uses its soft power to achieve its goals. This foreign policy contributed to an improvement in Turkey's relations with its neighbors, particularly with Iraq, Iran and Syria. However Turkey's relations with Israel, its traditional ally, suffered, especially after the 2008–09 Gaza War and the 2010 Gaza flotilla raid.
Ahmet Davutoğlu, Turkish foreign minister since 2009 and "head architect" of the new foreign policy, has however rejected the term "neo-Ottomanism" to describe his country's new foreign policy. In a speech, he said that "The Turkish Republic is a modern nation state and it has equal status with countries in the region. We can build diplomatic relations of equal status with any big or small country which was previously in Ottoman lands. This is what modern diplomacy requires." Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's storming-off at the World Economic Forum in Davos after an argument with Israeli president Shimon Peres has been seen as a symbol of the freeze in Turkey's formerly friendly relationship with Israel, an attitude in line with almost all other Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East.
Turkey's new foreign policy started a debate, principally in the Western media, as to whether Turkey is undergoing an "axis shift"; in other words whether it is drifting away from the West and heading towards the Middle East and Asia. Such fears appear more frequently in Western media when Turkish tensions with Israel rise. President Abdullah Gül dismissed claims that Turkey has shifted its foreign policy axis.
Vis-à-vis the European Union, Davutoğlu reaffirmed that full membership is still Turkey's strategic target.
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