ANKARA Turkey seeks to fill the void left by countries boycotting declining interest in both Mauritania and Sudan after the reconciliation process initiated by the Al-Ula summit in Saudi Arabia in January.
The countries boycotting Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, later known as the boycott quartet, had in June 2017 suspended diplomatic and economic relations with Qatar. They have since opted for reconciliation with Doha and its allies after the Gulf Cooperation Council agreement in Al-Ula.
In recent days, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has invited the Chairman of the Sovereignty Council in Sudan, Abdel Fattah Burhan, and Mauritanian President Muhammad Ould Ghazouani to visit Ankara, in a step that illustrates a Turkish strategy of soft expansion in both countries.
To attract Nouakchott and Khartoum, the Turks focused on promises of investments and new projects. Those promises resonated with officials in both countries after Khartoum and Nouakchott failed to garner the support they expected when they backed the boycott quartet against Qatar, Turkey and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Turkey seeks to learn lessons from its approach to Sudan, which resulted in its humiliating exclusion after the fall of the Omar Bashirs regime.
This time, Ankara wants to play a political, economic and cultural role that will resist any political turbulence.
Sudan received support from the Gulf in the post-revolutionary period after the fall of Islamist ally Omar Bashir. However, the internal complications of the Sudanese transition phase reduced the enthusiasm of supporters of the Gulf of Khartoums, who found themselves drawn to other priorities, including the Gulf reconciliation process, normalization of relations with Israel and the United Nations. repercussions of Joe Bidens’ accession to the presidency of the United States. .
Mauritania has secured support for the country’s vital development sectors, particularly in its fight against terrorism and radical Islamist currents, including the Muslim Brotherhood, under the reign of former President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who espoused the cause of anti-Islamism.
Observers say Turkey wants to take advantage of Mauritanian and Sudanese dissatisfaction with their Gulf donors. However, it will not be limited to making promises in Nouakchott and Khartoum, especially since the cost of projects in both countries is relatively low and offers opportunities for Turkish companies to promote their cultural and religious presence through programs. aid as Ankara tries to restore the influence it has lost in recent years.
The Sudanese Sovereignty Council said President Burhan received an invitation from Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday to visit Turkey.
Turkish Vice President Fuad Oktay invited the Mauritanian President to Ankara on Sunday when the two met at Diori Hamani International Airport in Niamey, the capital of Nigers, after attending the inauguration of President Mohammad Bazum.
The Turks are working to return to Sudan and regain the influence they lost with the fall of Bashir, as they attempt to win back the 2018 agreement on Suakin Island, which would have provided them with a vital location on the Red Sea.
So far, Turkish officials have contented themselves with making various pledges of aid to Sudan without any further expressions of interest in Suakin, in a gradual strategy that sets the stage for a positive Sudanese response.
In Mauritania, the efforts of Ankaras to infiltrate Mauritanian society have doubled since the visit of the Erdogans in February 2018. These efforts were crowned by the signing of several agreements between the two countries in the fields of minerals, fishing, maritime economy and tourism, in addition to a memorandum of understanding in the field of agriculture and an agreement on the protection and promotion of investments between the two countries.
The visit, the first of its kind by a Turkish president, seemed to open the door to Turkish interests in Mauritania, located in a strategic area of the Atlantic Ocean and a gateway to sub-Saharan Africa.
There is no doubt that Turkey’s most recent invitation to the Mauritanian president is part of the drive to forge closer ties with the current leadership in Nouakchott, as well as an attempt to exploit the economic crisis to which Mauritania faces in addition to its chronic lack of resources.
Turkey is also seeking to strengthen its presence in the country through religious charitable projects such as the training of imams and through charitable organizations.
Although relatively limited in scope, the activities of these charities are used by Turkey to strengthen its reputation. Much like the donation of a small number of chickens to Tunisian farmers in recent weeks, Turkish organizations have found propaganda value in the food packages they provided to 300 Mauritanian families on Monday on the eve of Ramadan.
Last September, the Mauritanian government began work to create a training center for imams and preachers with the aim of improving their speaking skills and academic standards, according to the Ministry of Islamic Affairs.
Turkey has also channeled its soft power through the education sector in Mauritania through a number of projects, including efforts to encourage Mauritanian students to study at Turkish universities.
Observers point out that Ankaras’ bet on Mauritania and Sudan has another goal, which is to use the two countries as a gateway for Turkey as it seeks to expand its influence on the African continent. and to compete with international powers in the countries of the Sahel and East Africa.
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