Turkey forges a 'G7' for Muslim world

Senior officials from seven Muslim countries gathered in Istanbul at the weekend as the guests of Necmettin Erbakan, Turkey's first Islamist Prime Minister. Their aim was to prepare the ground for the inaugural summit of a multinational organisation called the Developing-Eight (D8), to be held later this year.

The meeting, attended by foreign ministers from Iran, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Indonesia, as well as an Egyptian foreign ministry official, was the realisation of a personal vision for Mr Erbakan. His Welfare Party came to power in a coalition with the True Path Party last June. Already, Mr Erbakan is on the way to forming a club which represents 740 million people, from eight of the world's largest Muslim nations.

The D8 reflects Mr Erbakan's preferences. Short on potentially fractious Arabs (Egypt is the only Arab member), a smooth-working D8 will, Mr Erbakan hopes, constitute a developing world equivalent to the G7, the Western club of industrialised nations. The aim of the new club, according to Mr Erbakan, is nothing less than "refashioning the world order".

Mr Erbakan has his work cut out. Average per capita income in G7 countries is $27,000 (pounds 16,000). In the D8, it is just $1,500. While trade volumes between D8 members are expected to increase as a result of the grouping's formation, Turkey's own dependence on trade with the West is illustrated by the fact that 64 per cent of foreign firms active in Turkey are from European Union countries, and just 4 per cent from Muslim ones. The D8's most dynamic economies - Indonesia and Malaysia - have not succeeded by turning their backs on the West.

Nevertheless, the organisation's exclusively Muslim membership has prompted fears that it has been formed to indulge Mr Erbakan's well-known distrust of the Christian West. Since coming to power, Mr Erbakan has assiduously courted the Muslim world, conspicuously failing to set foot inside the EU, with whom Turkey signed a customs union agreement in 1995. Tansu Ciller, the True Path leader and Mr Erbakan's Foreign Minister, says the D8's Muslim composition is incidental. Few believe her, especially since she began sharpening her criticism of the EU's "Christian" nature.

Europhile Turks say Iran's membership of the D8 will only reinforce the perception that Turkey is ditching the West in favour of unpredictable Middle Eastern friends. In August, Mr Erbakan signed a $23bn natural gas deal with Iran. This - and a visit to Turkey last month by Iran's President, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani - upset the US, which wants to isolate Iran internationally. Yesterday, Iran's Foreign Minister, Ali Akbar Velayati, confirmed that Mr Erbakan had suggested "wide-ranging defence co-operation" between Turkey and Iran.

Few expect such co-operation to take place. When Mr Rafsanjani was in Turkey, the secular military made it clear that the Iranian President would be denied access to sensitive sites.

While he was in opposition, Mr Erbakan bitterly attacked a defence co- operation agreement which Turkey had signed with Israel, and which had elicited criticism from Turkey's Arab neighbours. Once in office, he was obliged to put his signature to another, earning accusations of betrayal from the same sources which had welcomed his rise to power. Even now an enduring US military presence in Turkey testifies to Mr Erbakan's grim- faced genuflection to his generals' demands.

Western-oriented Turks hope Mr Erbakan will be similarly reined in with regard to the D8. Should he think of abandoning customs duties on trade with D8 partners - as he has hinted - he will fall foul of the EU, whose customs union with Turkey has brought with it strict rules on trade with third countries.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
Lane Del Rey performing on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2014
people... but none of them helped me get a record deal, insists Lana Del Rey
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Arts and Entertainment
British author Howard Jacobson has been long-listed for the Man Booker Prize
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Louis van Gaal watches over Nani
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Systems Analyst (Technical, UML, UI)

£30000 - £40000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Senior Private Client Solicitor - Gloucestershire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - We are makin...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Support Developer

£50000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A unique and rare opport...

Insight Analyst – Permanent – Up to £40k – North London

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum plus 23 days holiday and pension scheme: Clearwater ...

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn