Siyamak Kakaee told the Strategic Council on Foreign Relations that it seems Ankara is seeking to return to the Middle East region and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants to play a role in the region after a period of severance in his relations with some Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.

Referring to the recent visit by Lebanon’s Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri to Turkey, Kakaee said the unexpected visit and meeting with Turkish President Erdogan behind closed doors have created a lot of discussions and speculations in media circles.

“Such discussions are spotlighted in the media not because of the influential role of Lebanon in regional trends but because of rumours Saad Hariri is seeking mediation between Turkey and Saudi Arabia. On the other hand, this visit by the Lebanese prime minister-designate to Turkey is indicative of a new round of relations and cooperation between Turkey and Lebanon and a new role-playing by Ankara in regional developments including the political process in Lebanon.”

He said it seems that after the rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, some efforts even small are being made to link Turkey with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates because relations between Turkey and these Arab states have been severed and overshadowed by tensions in the past several years.

Referring to speculations on the normalization of relations between Turkey and the Zionist regime, he said recent developments suggest that Turkey is highly likely making efforts to return to the Middle East and focus its attention to the main developments of this region.

According to Kakaee, from 2012 onwards, and after regional developments such as the Arab Spring, an era of severance began in relations between Ankara and the Arab countries of the Middle East and North Africa, resulting in the isolation of Turkey and its foreign policy from this part of Asia.

Referring to the military intervention of Turkey in Syria and rising tensions between Turley and the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, he said Turkey has established very warm relations with Qatar that accepted to host a Turkish military base—a move unpleasant for Saudi Arabia.

“Moreover, after tensions between Turley and Egypt’s General Sisi, Ankara strengthened its relations with the legal government of Libya which was followed by Turkey’s adventurism in the region, ultimately overshadowing good relations between Turkey and Middle Eastern countries during 2007 and 2011 when they severed ties. Therefore, Turkey is now isolated in this region and it seems that Erdogan is seeking to return to the Middle East.”

Kakaee emphasized that Turkish activities and objectives in Lebanon could be examined within this framework.

Asked about relations between Beirut and Ankara, he said Turkish flags were being hoisted in Beirut streets many years ago however the period of separation of Turkey from the Middle East also included Lebanon.

“The question here is if Ankara is seeking to play a role in Lebanon’s developments especially when we consider the rising role played by Saudi Arabia and France in the past several years in Lebanon—two countries with severed relations and tensions with Turkey.”

Having this assumption in mind, Kakaee said “we should now expect that Turkey would want to return to the trend of role-playing in the political scene of Lebanon because this region is of significance for Ankara. Moreover, it seems that the Saad Hariri’s team is trying to rethink and re-define Lebanon’s relations with Turkey so that it enters as a supporter and ally of Hariri in the political developments in Lebanon.”

Referring to tensions between Turkey and some countries in the Middle East which have overshadowed its efforts to normalize relations with the Middle Eastern countries, he said the visit and meetings of Saad Hariri in Ankara with Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Turkey’s interest in establishing new relations with Lebanon could indicate the formation of a common interest between Turkey and Lebanon when the former returns to the political scene in the latter.

“Warming relations between Turkey and Lebanon in political and economic fronts, as well as other areas of mutual interest, would pave the way for more role-playing even limited by Turkey in the political scene of Lebanon,” he said, adding that Recep Tayyip Erdogan is seeking to play such a role.