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In Turkey, the blunder of too many of a faithful ally of Erdogan

LETTER FROM ISTANBUL

In solidarity with NATO in the war launched by the Kremlin against Ukraine, also anxious to maintain his good relations with Vladimir Putin, the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is walking on eggshells in his new diplomatic gestures. His return to favor with the Atlantic Alliance is not only happy within his Justice and Development Party (AKP, Islamo-conservative).

His staunchest ally, businessman Ethem Sancak, resented the prospect of a rapprochement with Turkey’s traditional allies. Since the start of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, this atypical entrepreneur has not ceased to criticize NATO and the United States while he praised the actions of the great northern neighbor.

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Former Maoist won over to the cause of the “Eurasians”, namely the Turkish sovereignist nationalists in favor of an alliance with Russia and China against the West, Mr. Sancak is a prominent member of the AKP who has his entrances to the palace and does not hesitate to describe himself as ” the soldier “ of Mr. Erdogan.

Anti-Atlantic imprecations

Shareholder of the BMC tank company, with a large media empire, Ethem Sancak, 64, whose wealth is estimated at 50 million dollars (45 million euros), has always been able to count on the support of the president. . Is he not the most faithful of the faithful, he who said he was ready, in 2015, “to sacrifice” his mother, father, wife and children for the “reis”, the supreme leader?

His anti-Atlantic imprecations, unwelcome because they were pronounced at the very moment when Ankara was trying to regain favor with NATO, would have gone largely unnoticed if they had not been followed by a big blunder. Invited to a conference organized by the University of Marmara on March 31 in Istanbul, Mr. Sancak declared that the AKP, the presidential party of which he is a member, “had come to power with the support of the United States”.

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Consternation in the Islamo-conservative ranks. Why does the businessman, a prominent member of the party, start smearing the president, his benefactor? Had he forgotten his favors, including the award to BMC in 2019 of Turkey’s largest tank maintenance plant, located in the Sakarya region?

At the time, the deal was criticized by the opposition and by factory workers for its lack of transparency. But nothing was too good for BMC, tasked with producing the next-generation Altay tank, the flagship of the booming defense industry. Otherwise that the production of the new tank had to be delayed, European suppliers having refused to supply the engine after the Turkish military intervention launched in the fall of 2019 against Kurdish fighters in Syria.

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