ISTANBUL/ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey aims to use its approaching presidency of the G20 to promote its image as a global economic power and alleviate a sense of a country increasingly isolated on the world stage and buffeted by conflict on its southern frontiers.
Ankara takes over the G20 presidency in December, its relations with Washington and Europe strained by its reluctance to take a frontline role against Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq. President Tayyip Erdogan’s tightening grip on power has also raised concern in Europe and the United States.
Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan, in charge of the economy and one of the figures spearheading Turkey’s G20 strategy, said tackling sluggish global growth and increasing the voice of low income countries would be among Turkey’s priorities.
“During its term as G20 chair, Turkey will become a bridge between the low-income, emerging countries and developed nations. Our aim is to enhance the interaction,” he told Reuters in emailed comments, en route to the G20 summit in Brisbane.
Pushing G20 member nations to meet reform commitments meant to increase global growth would also be high on the agenda.
“These targets were set during the chairmanship of Australia but they will be initiated under our presidency. The IMF and the OECD will carry out the technical studies,” Babacan said, adding member states would be closely monitored for progress.
“This we will call: ‘Keep your word, or explain’,” he said.
Turkey will also need to set its own house in order.
Its policy makers are struggling to tame inflation, running above the central bank’s 5 percent target, while growth is faltering, with the government last month lowering its expectations for next year to 4 percent from 5.
With an eye to G20 responsibilities, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu this month unveiled a plan to cut import dependence and boost productivity - reforms economists say are badly needed if Turkey is to escape the “middle income trap” and enter the league of developed economies.
The focus on economics is likely to prove a relief for a Turkish leadership frustrated by Western failure to heed its warnings that sectarian policies in Syria and Iraq were sowing the seeds of conflict, and smarting over the collapse of the Muslim Brotherhood, a pillar of its Islamist vision for the Middle East.
“It’s manna for the foreign ministry after the run they’ve had. A great opportunity to relaunch Turkey as an economically literate, big trading country,” said one Ankara-based diplomat.
Additional reporting by Jonny Hogg in Ankara; Writing by Nick Tattersall; editing by Ralph Boulton