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Turkey loses popularity in Middle East: poll

A poster bearing a picture of Hrant Dink and a Turkish flag are pictured in front of the Caglayan Law Court during the retrial of the man accused of instigating the 2007 murder of ethnic Armenian journalist Hrant Dink in Turkey, along with 18 other suspects, on December 3 ,2013 in Istanbul. AFP PHOTO/OZAN KOSE

ISTANBUL: Turkey's popularity in the Middle East has dropped sharply over the past two years, an opinion poll showed Wednesday, reflecting Ankara's sometimes controversial foreign policy strategy.

The biggest decline was registered in Egypt and war-ravaged Syria, where Turkey is strongly opposed to those in power, according to the poll by an Istanbul-based think-tank.

Overall, the number of people surveyed in 16 countries who had a positive view of Turkey slid to 59 percent this year from 78 percent in 2011, the Turkey Economic and Social Studies Foundation said.

Turkey, a regional Sunni Muslim power, had adopted a "zero problems" policy towards its neighbours but has found itself losing influence in the wake of the Syrian civil war and the Arab Spring uprisings.

In Syria, 88 percent of those surveyed believe that Turkey is "not friendly" towards their country, which has been in the grip of a brutal conflict since March 2011.

The Islamic-rooted government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan supports the rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad and hosts about 600,000 refugees from the war.

In Egypt, the ratio of those with a favourable view of Turkey dropped by more than half to 38 percent over three years, the poll found.

Relations with the Arab heavyweight Egypt are in tatters after Erdogan's outspoken criticism of the military "coup" that ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July, prompting Cairo to kick out Turkey's ambassador last month.

Nevertheless, 60 percent of respondents supported a greater role for Turkey in the region and the country retained its popularity among other Sunni-run states such as the United Arab Emirates, the survey said.

 

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