Historian warns of ‘neo-Ottomanism’

Historian warns of ‘neo-Ottomanism’

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Historian warns of ‘neo-Ottomanism’

Timothy Garton-Ash. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜREL

Turkey should avoid defining itself as “a center of a neo-Ottoman civilization,” Oxford historian and political writer Timothy Garton-Ash has warned.

“It is great to have a rediscovery of the great Ottoman traditions, but one should avoid the temptation to define the foreign policies of contemporary states in terms of civilizations and mythologies. We are all modern states in a highly interdependent world, and we have to work together,” Garton-Ash told the Hürriyet Daily News in an interview on 4 April. 

One of the most prominent voices on contemporary world politics, Garton-Ash was visiting Turkey in order to speak at a conference titled “Garanti Future Summit,” organized by Garanti Bank. 

Garton-Ash told an anecdote that he heard last year, at an occasion in which EU ministers had a meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu. “After the meeting one of the foreign ministers made a joke.

He ironically told me he got the impression that Mr. Davutoğlu was inviting the EU to join the Ottoman Empire!”

“I think the EU should avoid defining itself as a Christian club; China should avoid describing itself in purely civilizational terms; and, in the same way, I would warn against Turkey defining itself too much as a center of a neo-Ottoman civilization. Some people might think that there are some moments when Turkey is doing that,” he added. 

‘Arab Spring should not become the Arab Fall’

Garton-Ash also said that both Turkey and the EU had experience to offer countries affected by the Arab Spring, and that a partnership between Turkey and the EU to support the Arab Spring would benefit these countries a lot. 

“Starting from how to get investment, growth and trade; we have a lot to share. Turkey is a major economic and political player in the region. What we can do together is try to ensure that the Arab Spring doesn’t become an Arab Fall,” Garton-Ash said.

Garton-Ash also said that in the longer term he believed Turkish membership to the EU would mean Turkey that becomes an even more important bridge to the Middle East and Central Asia. “I believe that Turkey’s chances of being an effective regional power are going to be more realized inside the EU than its own. Of course Turkey is a big country but I don’t think it is big enough on its own.”