Turkey promotes an alternative to the G20 India-Middle East trade corridor plan | ET REALITY


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Turkey is in “intensive negotiations” over its alternative to the India-Middle East trade corridor plan agreed at this month’s G20 summit, as the country seeks to reinforce its historic role as a transport route for goods moving from Asia. to Europe.

Ankara has rejected the proposal India-Middle East Route which would transport goods from the subcontinent through the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel to European markets. The mooted corridor, backed by the United States and the EU in their attempt to repel China’s growing influence, would be completely bypassed Turkey.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, president of Türkiye, said after the G20 that “there can be no corridor without Turkey,” adding that “the most suitable route for east-west trade must pass through Turkey.”

Since then, his foreign minister, Hakan Fidan, has doubled down on his skepticism, insisting this week that “experts had doubts that the main objective (of the India-Middle East corridor) was rationality and efficiency” and suggesting that “more geostrategic concerns” were at stake.

“TO trade The route does not just mean tackling trade alone. It is also a reflection of geostrategic competition,” Fidan said in response to a question from the Financial Times.

Turkey is keen to emphasize its traditional role as a bridge between East and West, a history that dates back centuries to the Silk Roads.

Instead, Ankara has promoted an alternative called the Iraq Development Route initiative, and Fidan insisted that “intensive negotiations” were underway with Iraq, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates over a project that would be forged “in the coming months.” ”.

Map showing planned transport corridors in the Middle East

The proposed route, valued at $17 billion, would carry goods from the oil-rich port of Grand Faw in southern Iraq through 10 Iraqi provinces and into Turkey, according to diagrams published by the government in Baghdad.

The plan would be based on 1,200 kilometers of high-speed rail and a parallel road network. The plan has three phases: the first will be completed in 2028 and the last in 2050.

Analysts, however, say there are concerns over the viability of the Development Highway project for financial and security reasons.

“Turkey lacks funding to realize the full scope of the project and appears to have support from the United Arab Emirates and Qatar to build the proposed infrastructure,” said Emre Peker, European director at the Eurasia Group think tank. “For that to happen, the Gulf States would have to be convinced of good returns on investment, something that is not imminently evident with the (Development Route) project.”

Peker added that there are also “issues related to safety and stability that threaten both the construction and long-term viability of the project.”

Iraq is plagued by rampant corruption, decaying infrastructure, weak government and regular bouts of political instability. It is also unclear how Iraq will finance the project.

Western analysts and diplomats have also noted that the proposed G20 corridor could also take decades to come together, if it materializes at all.

Turkey has tried to cross the strategic line between West and East by trying to maintain strong relations with the United States and the EU, and also with Russia and China. At times, this strategy has stoked tensions with the West. This week, for example, two Turkish companies were sanctioned by the United States for allegedly aiding Russia’s war against Ukraine.

Ankara has generally supported China’s Belt and Road initiative, Peker added, but said its role in the plan has been limited. Beijing has made around $4 billion in investments in Turkey through the Belt and Road, representing only 1.3 percent of the total, according to a recent study by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Murat Yeşiltaş, director of foreign policy studies at Seta, a think tank linked to Erdoğan’s government, said that despite the alternative proposal, Ankara could still push to join the India-Middle East initiative.

Erdoğan could have a chance to make his case as soon as next week, if he meets with his American counterpart Joe Biden on the sidelines of next week’s UN General Assembly.

Yeşiltaş said that in addition to defending Turkey’s convenient geographical location for trade, the country can also exert its influence in the region, particularly after its recent warming of relations with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

“Turkey exerts considerable political influence in the region (and is) capable of facilitating trade negotiations and resolving disputes between countries participating in the corridor,” Yeşiltaş said.

Additional reporting by Funja Güler in Ankara

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