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
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test