Turkey’s Erdogan visit to Qatar entrenches bilateral ties

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's visit to Qatar on December 6-7 marks both the advanced level of bilateral ties between Ankara and Doha as well as the new era that occurred in relations between Turkey and Gulf states.

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan paid an official visit to Qatar on December 6-7. A wide range of delegations comprised of high-level officials accompanied him. The visit, above all, was taken place to make the seventh annual meeting within the scope of the Supreme Strategic Committee.

Arriving in Doha on December 6 upon the invitation of Qatar Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Erdogan was welcomed with an official ceremony. After that, the two leaders came together in a one-on-one meeting in the Emiri Diwan, the Emir’s office. During the meeting, bilateral relations and regional issues were reportedly handled.

Following the bilateral talks between President Erdogan and Emir Sheikh Tamim, 12 new agreements were signed in several fields, including commerce, investment, development, culture, youth, sports, diplomacy, health, religious affairs, and media to deepen bilateral cooperation. Relevant ministers inked the agreements in the signing ceremony, which was held in the presence of the Turkish President and the Qatari Emir.

After the signing ceremony, the two leaders co-chaired the meeting of the Supreme Strategic Committee. During the meeting, bilateral ties and steps that could be taken to strengthen cooperation between the two countries were discussed in all dimensions. Additionally, both sides exchanged views on regional and international issues.

Strong Turkish-Qatari Ties

The diplomatic relations between Turkey and Qatar were established in 1979 when the two countries opened their embassies in Doha and Ankara. Yet, it is seen that the development and strengthening of bilateral ties between the two countries started after the 2010s. In 2013, then prime-minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan inaugurated the new headquarters of the Turkish embassy in Doha. After a year, Qatar was the first Arab country that Erdogan visited after being elected as Turkey’s new president.

As a sign of developing bilateral ties, the Supreme Strategic Committee was created in December 2014. The first meeting of the committee was held in Qatar’s capital of Doha in 2015. So far, more than sixty agreements have been signed within the scope of the committee’s meetings.

The economy draws attention as one of the areas that reflects the improving relations between the two countries. The bilateral trade volume has shown a consistent increase year by year. It has also been followed by the rise in reciprocal investment.

In this sense, Turkey’s ambassador to Qatar, Mustafa Goksu, said, “With the trade volume between the two countries reaching nearly $2 billion, bilateral relations have witnessed an unprecedented development.” Responding to reporters’ questions ahead of President Erdogan’s arrival in Qatar, Goksu also stated that the current volume of bilateral investments has reached $65 billion.

Another development that contributed to the deepening of Turkey-Qatar relations is Ankara’s support to Doha when Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt severed diplomatic ties with Qatar and imposed a land, sea, and air blockade in 2017. In response, Turkey sent ships and planes carrying food, water, and medication to Qatar through air and sea routes.

Besides, in accordance with the defense and military cooperation, which was agreed in December 2014, Turkish troops have been stationed on Qatari soil. In 2019, the new headquarters for the Turkish-Qatari joint forces, the Khalid ibn al-Walid Base, was established with the attendance of senior military officials from both countries.

Apart from these, Turkey and Qatar have also cooperated in several regional issues, including the Libyan crisis and Afghanistan.

Turkey-Gulf Rapprochement

President Erdogan’s visit to Qatar also matters because it coincided with the new era that has started between Turkey and other Gulf countries in the recent period. The current shifts erupted in recent times at international and regional stages have prompted regional countries to resolve their disputes with each other through dialogue. In this context, positive signals sent by Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain, to Turkey was met with a similar reaction by Ankara. This situation has led to the beginning of “détente” within these countries.

In this sense, a telephone conversation held between President Erdogan and Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz in November 2020 matters in terms of being one of the first signals for such a process. Immediately after, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan termed his country’s relations with Turkey as “good and amicable,” while he interviewed with reporters on the sidelines of the events held under the G20 Summit, which Saudi Arabia held the term presidency at the time. Prince Faisal’s remarks can also be considered in the same line.

In a similar way, mutual constructive messages have been seen in Turkey-UAE relations in 2021. This favorable atmosphere in bilateral ties has reached its peak through the visit of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to Ankara last month. During the press conference held ahead of his take-off to Qatar, President Erdogan also confirmed that his country is keen to develop relations with other Gulf countries.

Ahmet Dogan

Ahmet Doğan is a Gulf Studies Research Assistant holding a BA degree from Hacettepe University's International Relations Department and an MA degree from the Middle East Technical University's History Department. His research focuses on the foreign policies of Gulf countries, particularly towards Yemen and the Horn of Africa.

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