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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
From Mean Girls to Mamet: Lindsay Lohan
theatre
Sport
Nathaniel Clyne (No 2) drives home his side's second goal past Arsenal’s David Ospina at the Emirates
footballArsenal 1 Southampton 2: Arsène Wenger pays the price for picking reserve side in Capital One Cup
News
Mike Tyson has led an appalling and sad life, but are we not a country that gives second chances?
peopleFormer boxer 'watched over' crash victim until ambulance arrived
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
i100
Travel
travelGallery And yes, it is indoors
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
The Tiger Who Came To Tea
booksJudith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
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

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

BBC Television Centre

A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

My George!

Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world