Arab Spring nations eye bigger Turkey role

Arab Spring nations eye bigger Turkey role

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Arab Spring nations eye bigger Turkey role

TESEV members announce the results. IHA Photo.

More than 70 percent of people in the Middle East think Turkey should play a greater role in the region, according to a recent survey conducted by the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV).

“Turkey is the most favorably regarded country in the Middle East. Some 70 percent think Turkey has become more influential in recent years and 75 percent believe Turkey should play a mediatory role in the Israel-Palestine conflict,” Professor Mensur Akgün, the head of the TESEV Foreign Policy Program, told a press conference in Istanbul yesterday while presenting “The Perception of Turkey in the Middle East 2011” survey.

The survey of 2,323 people was conducted between Oct. 19 and Dec. 15, 2011, across 16 countries: Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Tunisia, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Libya.

According to the survey, 61 percent of the people in Middle Eastern countries think of Turkey as a model in the region.

Some 78 percent of those surveyed said they viewed Turkey favorably. Turkey was followed in the same category by the UAE, at 70 percent, Palestine at 66 percent, China at 65 percent, Saudi Arabia at 64 percent, Lebanon at 64 percent and Egypt at 62 percent.

According to the survey, Turkey is widely expected to become the region’s strongest economy in 10 years’ time (25 percent); Saudi Arabia, at 16 percent, was the next most common response.

The country which has the least favorable view of Turkey is Syria. Just 44 percent of Syrian respondents reported a favorable view when asked about Turkey; only 30 percent of Syrians thought Turkey’s response to the developments of last year was positive while only 31 percent thought Turkey could be a model.

Despite demands for democratization in the Arab world, the economy was seen as the region’s most important issue, according to the survey. “When asked what the region’s most urgent issue is, 21 percent identified the economy, whereas 40 percent said it was the most urgent issue in their own country,” Akgün said.

According to the survey, 62 percent of respondents felt more positive about the future of the region than they did a year ago. This percentage rose to nearly 80 percent in Arab Spring countries such as Egypt, Tunisia and Libya.

Israel was seen as the Middle East’s biggest threat at 47 percent, followed by the United States at 24 percent and Iran at 11 percent. A regional average of 75 percent of respondents supported the holding of peaceful protests to effect change, while 20 percent supported violent protests.