Both Algeria and Turkey are keen to build a relationship that is mutually beneficial- but challenges remain.

Instability in the broader Middle East, in particular Libya, and a desire to broaden political and economic links, have brought Algeria and Turkey closer.

Turkey's Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, greeted his Algerian counterpart Sabri Boukadoum in Ankara earlier this week as "my brother", an indication of the warm relations between the two sides.

Deepening relations between the two countries is still a relatively recent phenomenon.

The "Friendship and Cooperation Agreement" signed in 2006 in Algeria under the current AK Party government, marks one of the first attempts by Ankara to re-calibrate its relations with the West and the global south.

"In the past, Turkey focused more on the relations with the West," says Professor Ismail Numan Telci from the Department of International Relations at Sakarya University.

The shift by Ankara to prioritise its immediate neighbourhood, particularly in the Middle East, can be described as a 'paradigm shift' in Turkey's foreign policy direction," Telci tells TRT World.

As Turkey expanded relations with Morocco, Tunisia and Libya, "special attention was paid to Algeria," Telci adds.

Deepening relations

In 2013, the then Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was accompanied by 200 business people on a tour of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia seeking to upgrade relations.

It was also an indication of Turkey's growing confidence that it could harmonise relationships with its historical and erstwhile neglected neighbours and create win-win opportunities.

Since then, there have been an additional three state visits by Erdogan, the latest in January 2020, following the departure of Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika who was pushed out of power and forced to resign in April 2019.

Algeria's new president, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, at 74 years old, has been around for a long time, considered an insider and therefore has ensured a degree of continuity between the two countries' growing relationship.

When in August, Tebboune requested the return of a military fugitive who had divulged top-secret information and fled to Turkey, a personal call between the two leaders resulted in a swift resolution of the case.

Turkey's growing economic and military power over the last two decades has also revised political calculations in Algiers, says Telci.

With France's regional influence waning, Algeria is also looking to diversify its international relationships, added Telci. This has increasingly taken shape in the two countries' growing economic relationship.

Turkey's investments in Algeria have grown to more than $3.5 billion in recent years. With Turkish expertise in construction and a well-developed manufacturing sector, there are mutual opportunities for both sides.

"One of the main reasons for Algeria's slow pace for modernisation, liberalisation and development," can be attributed in part to the legacy of French colonialism, says Telci.

"In this regard, the Algerian leadership considers Turkey a strategic partner that can benefit from Ankara's experience. Algeria considers that a strong alliance with Turkey would help the government to boost its economic potential," added Telci.

Ankara feels the same way with both sides now working on a Turkey-Algeria High-Level Cooperation Council which would see ministerial meetings becoming more frequent.

Social and political opportunities

Challenges to the deepening relationship between the two sides could emerge, warns Telci.

In the past, Paris would have enjoyed a privileged relationship with Algiers despite the hundreds of thousands of Algerians dying in the country's war of independence.

France, which has taken a hawkish approach towards Turkey on Libya and the eastern Mediterranean, is unlikely to "support a deepening relationship between Ankara and Algiers" and may even consider "a strong Algeria as a threat for its regional policies," says Telci.

The increasing partnership between Algeria and Turkey has also been attributed to a shared history which harks back to the Ottoman period - something that Erdogan has alluded to in the past.

Algeria became a protectorate of Ottoman empire as a result of the Ottoman Naval Admiral, Barbaros Hayreddin Pasha, who pledged fealty to the Ottoman state. In addition, between 1519 to 1830, Algeria was considered part of the Ottoman domains, when the French invaded and colonised the country. 

Fast forward to today, the two countries are attempting to forge a relationship fit for the 21st-century and recent social and political change in Algeria could have a positive impact on the relationship of the two countries.

Algeria's Hirak Movement, which resulted in Bouteflika stepping down and the resulting widespread protests across the country have not dented Turkey's confidence in deepening its relationship with the country.

Protestors in the Hirak Movement, says Abdennour Toumi, who is a researcher for the Centre of Middle East Studies, have been positive in relation to Turkey seeing it as an example worth emulating for the country.

More than 70 percent of the Algeria population is under the age of 30, yet few have seen the rewards from the country's extraordinary oil and gas wealth and some are far from happy with the new government of Tebboune.

Except, as Algerian society seeks to chart a new way forward, the country's geopolitical position is far from certain. With an ongoing insurgency in Mali, and civil war in Libya, the "Turkish-Algerian rapprochement is an opportunity," says Toumi speaking to TRT World.

In Libya, Algeria for a long time eschewed playing a public role preferring to take a back seat. There are signs that the new government wants to take a more active approach in Libya, which has also leaned towards Turkey's position.

"Today, both countries have a stake in Libya, Algeria is cornered in terms of its national security, it has to protect its borders, and this has been extended lately not only on the eastern side but on the southern borders as well."

Similarly, Turkey needs a strong and stable regional ally like Algeria - a prospect that is making "France and some Arab countries who are involved in Libya very nervous," added Toumi.

Source: TRT World