The United States and Israel top the list of countries that Turks see as a threat, according to an opinion poll seen by AFP Wednesday. The survey, conducted by the Ankara-based Metropoll research company last month, found that 42.6% saw the United States as "the greatest external threat," with another 23.7% singling out Israel.
Turkey's eastern neighbor Iran ranked third, listed by 3% of the respondents, while another neighbor and traditional rival Greece come fourth with 2.3%.
In response to another question, 63.6% said relations with Israel should be frozen, as opposed to 27.9% who said ties should be improved.
The figures mirrored a deep crisis between one-time allies Turkey and Israel since May 31 when Israeli forces killed nine Turks as they raided a Gaza-bound ship.
Concern over the United States, a NATO ally, appeared to reflect enduring misgivings about Washington's policies in the region, notably since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which had sparked fears over the possible emergence of an independent Kurdistan that would claim Turkish territory in the southeast. An earlier poll had found that 86% of Turks believe on different degrees of certainty that the United States aim to divide their country.
The findings indicate a significant change in the Turkish people's world view. In previous years the countries perceived as the biggest threats were Armenia, Russia and Greece.
"It is the highest ranking ever given in a poll on an outside threat," said Professor Ozer Sencar, head of the Metropoll Research Center.
"The US policy since the Iraq invasion, the arrest of Turkish soldiers, the war in Afghanistan, the Congress bills seeking recognition of the Armenian genocide and the Turkish leaders' negative comments on the US and Israel – all these greatly influenced the Turkish citizens' perception."
Obama and Erdogan (Photo: Reuters)
Sencar noted that the US's support of Israel also contributed to the Turkish people's views. "The Israeli policy in the region and the Palestinian suffering are not mutually exclusive, not to mention the US support of this." He added that Turkish hostility towards Israel is on the rise.
Sencar also noted the aggressive US policy towards Iran as influencing the Turkish people's perception. "It's not because the Turks sympathize with the Iranians. We asked the participants whether they were concerned with the Iranian nuclear threat. Some 70% said yes."
Concerns about Iran
Turkey's deteriorating ties with Israel and warm relations with Iran have sparked concern that the Islamist-rooted government in Ankara, in power since 2002, is taking NATO's sole Muslim-majority member away from the West. The government rejects the charges.
The Metropoll survey also found that 68.6% were concerned about the possibility of Iran developing nuclear weapons, while 22.7% said they would be pleased.
The figure was in contrast to solid public support for Iran becoming a nuclear power in Arab countries, the researchers noted. The poll covered some 1,500 people across Turkey.
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