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5/14/16

Turkey: Resentment over 1916 deal still drives Turkey foreign policy

Resentment over the Sykes-Picot Agreement between Britain and France that carved up the Middle East from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire remains, 100 years later, a major factor in Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's foreign policy.

The May 1916 accord, signed by two British and French diplomats as defeat began to loom in World War I for Germany and its allies, created spheres of influence in the Ottoman-ruled Middle East which to a large extent helped define the borders of modern states including Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Israel.

After the founding of the Turkish Republic by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1923, the state stepped back from Ottoman imperialism, focusing on building a strong nation within its own borders.

But since Erdogan's Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002, it has pursued a more ambitious foreign policy, seeking to increase Turkish influence in formerly Ottoman-controlled regions from Bosnia to Saudi Arabia.

Turkey's leadership, accused of neo-Ottomanism by critics, has never hidden its scorn for the Sykes-Picot accord which it says created artificial barriers between Muslim states and deprived Turkey of its natural influence in the region.

"We have always opposed Sykes-Picot because Sykes-Picot divided our region and alienated our cities from each other," Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in March.

He said the turmoil of the Arab Spring was used to thwart Turkish plans to reverse the outcome of the Sykes-Picot accord, such as by creating a free economic zone with Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.

And now Turkey's enemies are working to create a "new Sykes-Picot" by dividing up Iraq and Syria, he said, as Kurds in particular seek their own autonomous regions.

Read more: Resentment over 1916 deal still drives Turkey foreign policy - Yahoo7

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