Qatar–Turkey relations

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Turkey–Qatar relations
Map indicating locations of Turkey and Qatar

Turkey

Qatar

Qatar–Turkey relations are the bilateral relations between the State of Qatar and the Republic of Turkey. They first began in 1972.[1] There has been ongoing cooperation and dialogue in regional and international issues since the 2010s, particularly in the Syrian Civil War and the Egyptian Crisis.[2] The relations between both countries are not limited to political affinity, unfortunately especially after recent efforts from both sides to strike conspicuous economic and military cooperation deals. Meaning no major economic cooperation or any social exchanges have been recorded yet.[3][4][5]

Political relations[edit]

Political cooperation[edit]

The history of bilateral relations between Qatar and Turkey date back to the 1970s. In the 1980s, the two nations began signing bilateral agreements with one another. Bilateral relations gained further traction in the 2000s with the signing of a number of bilateral agreements.[6]

Qatar and Turkey share similar positions on the Syrian Civil War and the Egyptian Crisis.[2] The two formed a single bloc in the Syrian Civil War and supported the same rebel groups.[7] In the Egyptian Crisis, both Turkey and Qatar were opposed to Abdel Fattah el-Sisi's leadership. Their coordination in regional politics has been described as an alliance.[8] While commenting on the turmoil in the Middle East during a joint press conference held with Qatar in December 2014, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stated that "together with Qatar, we always side with oppressed people around the world".[9]

It was announced that Turkey and Qatar agreed to establish a cooperation council called 'High-level Strategic Cooperation Council' on January 19, 2015.[10] The decision was taken after a meeting between the countries' foreign ministers Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and Khalid bin Mohammad Al Attiyah concerning the recent mutual diplomatic shifts away from Egypt since Abdel Fattah el-Sisi rose to power in 2014.[11]

Diplomatic visits[edit]

High level visits have given a new momentum to the bilateral relations between the two countries. The visit of Qatari emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani to Turkey on 25–26 December 2001 paved the way drawing the legal framework of economic and military cooperation through the signing of a number of protocols. These protocols included the Agreement on Prevention of Double Taxation,[12] the Agreement on Reciprocal Promotion and Protection of Investments,[13] and the Cooperation Agreement on Military Fields.[14]

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan paid several official visits to Qatar. His first visit to Qatar was in 2005; this was proceeded by visits in 2008, 2010, 2011, and 2012.[1]

Turkey's President Abdullah Gül, accompanied by the Minister of Finance, Minister of Energy, Minister of Public Work and Settlement, and a large group of businessmen, paid official visits to Qatar in February and April 2008.[1] Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also visited Qatar in April 2008, and gave a key speech at the Doha Forum on Democracy, Development and Free Trade. He also held talks with Qatar's Emir, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister concerning economic agreements.[15] The Foreign Minister and Prime Minister of Qatar paid return visits to Turkey in 2008, during which the 1st Turkish-Qatari Business Forum was held.[1]

In 2008, Foreign Minister Ali Babacan visited Qatar to attend “The US-Islamic World Forum” as a keynote speaker organized by Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the US based Brookings Institution, as well as to have a bilateral meeting with his colleague Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani.[16]

In February 2016 Turkish President Erdoğan met with Qatari Emir Tamim al-Thani in Istanbul to discuss military cooperation in Syria.[17]

Military relations[edit]

Qatar and Turkey signed an agreement in July 2002 which involved cooperation in military training and arms sales.[18] In March 2015, both countries signed a military agreement which entailed mutual military deployment and the exchange of military training.[19] However, the reasons behind this military agreement have not been officially explained, therefore raising suspicions in Turkey over whether Turkish military personnel stationed in Qatar would help train Syrian opposition groups.[20]

On 2 December 2015, during a Turkish presidential visit to Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad and Tayyip Erdoğan announced the planned creation of a Turkish military in Qatar; a first for Turkey in the Persian Gulf.[21] On December 16, 2016 Turkey’s Ambassador to Qatar Ahmet Demirok declared that the establishment of the base was part of a broader defence agreement between the two countries to help them confront “common enemies.”[5] According to Eyup Ersoy, a Gulf politics expert teaching at Bilkent University, the military base exemplifies Turkey and Qatar’s willingness to overcome their strategic isolation in the region.[22]

The agreement was signed in 2014 and ratified by the Turkish Parliament in June 2015.[4] The base is expected to be completed in two years.[23] According to Ambassador Demirok, air and naval units, military trainers, special operations forces as well as 3,000 ground troops will be stationed at the base.[4][22]

Support to extremist and terrorist groups[edit]

Support for the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamist groups[edit]

Qatar and Turkey have provided support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt during the Arab Spring, in Syria, and in Libya.

Qatar’s commitment to the Muslim Brotherhood has assumed the distinct profile of a state patronage for the international movement, substantiated through political and financial support. Qatar has offered refuge to several Muslim Brothers exiled from Egypt, such as the prominent and extremely controversial Egyptian preacher Yussuf al-Qaradawi.[24][25] Al-Jazeera, the government-owned media channel, has often served as a platform to advocate for the Muslim Brotherhood cause.[26]

Qatar has backed Mohamed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood-led government by devolving $8 billion into Egypt and vocally supporting Morsi’s leadership.[25] Turkey strongly endorsed Morsi as well. Turkish President Erdoğan visited Cairo shortly after Morsi’s election in November 2012 with a delegation from the government and the private sector, and publicly praised Morsi’s first strategic decisions towards a reinforced partnership with Turkey.[27] Even when the economic situation of Egypt became extremely vulnerable one year after of Morsi’s election, Turkey offered to promote Turkish private investments and concessionary trade deals to the country.[27] Both countries opposed the Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s military coup in July 2013.[25] Following the banning of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt after Morsi’s fall, several Muslim Brothers found safety in Turkey.[28]

In Syria, Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) had acted as mediator between the Muslim Brotherhood group in the country and the Assad regime since 2006, when the Brotherhood had joined forces with Abdul Halim Khaddam, Syria’s former Vice President and defector who had established the National Salvation Front in exile.[29] Qatar is deeply connected with Islamist groups affiliated to the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood as well. In particular, rebel groups connected with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood are reportedly fighting in Syria alongside Jabhat al-Nusra, a terrorist group affiliated with al-Qaeda that Qatar continues to finance mostly through ransom.[26][30]

In fact, both countries remain currently involved in the Syrian civil war and support rebels fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s regime. Furthermore, Qatar and Turkey are members of the Muslim military coalition against terrorism announced by Saudi Arabia in December 2015, the so-called “Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism”, that includes 34 Muslim states but excludes Iran, Iraq, and Syria.[31]

In Libya, both countries have supported Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated parties, especially the Islamist-dominated “Libya Dawn Coalition”.[26][27][32]

Support for Hamas[edit]

Middle East experts claim that both Qatar and Turkey have provided the Palestinian organization Hamas – designated as a terrorist entity by many countries - “their public support and financial assistance estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.”[33] Qatar is often described as Hamas’ “top financial and political backer,” and currently hosts Hamas political bureau and top officer Khaled Meshaal.[34] Doha also hosts Husam Badran, former military officer of Hamas’ military wing in the West Bank who serves as the primary contact of Hamas abroad and has coordinated several terrorist attacks from Qatari territory.[35] When rumors started to circulate in early January 2016 that Qatar could expel Hamas political bureau, Turkish authorities offered shelter to the group’s leadership.[36]

Turkey has hosted for years a major branch of the organization led by Saleh al-Arouri, a prominent leader of Hamas and founding commander of Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the Hamas military.[37]

Alleged support for ISIS[edit]

Both Qatar and Turkey have been accused of supporting ISIS directly or indirectly.

Qatar allegedly provided financial support to ISIS. In 2013, the U.S. Department of the Treasury specified that terrorist-designated Tariq Bin-Al-Tahar Bin Al Falih Al-‘Awni Al-Harzi “arranged to receive approximately $2 million from a Qatar-based ISIL financial facilitator” for military operations in 2013.[38][39] The U.S. Treasury also accused Abdulrahman al-Nu’aymi – sanctioned by the U.S. and the UN for terror finance crimes and currently enjoying legal impunity in Qatar – of having provided $2 million on a monthly basis to ISIS when it was known as al-Qaeda in Iraq.[39][40]

Turkey has indirectly supported ISIS by allowing trafficking of ISIS smuggled oil.[41] Moreover, Wall Street Journal columnist Margaret Cooker reported that Turkey-based money exchange offices help move cash across ISIS controlled territory in Iraq and Syria.[42] ANF News recently released evidence collected by Syrian Kurdish forces (YGP) and by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Til Hemis, Til Bırak, Hol, Kobanê, Mount Kızwan, Şeddadê and Gîrê Spî that proves that ISIS affiliates have used Adana and Istanbul airports, have entered Rojava from Turkish territory since 2013, and have received residency permits from the Turkish government.[43]

Economic relations[edit]

Economic relations witnessed substantial development in the 21st century. In the 2000, the total trade volume between the two countries was $38 million.[44] By 2014, this number had increased to $739 million, according to the Turkish Statistical Institute.[45] This figure is lower than the trade volume between Turkey and all of its other trade partners in the region, except for Bahrain.[46]

On 11 June 2008, Qatar Investment Authority and Turkey Investment Support and Promotion Agency signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and it opened a comprehensive cooperation between two countries.[1]

Qatar mainly imports from Turkey iron-steel products, electrical equipment, motor vehicles, home textile products, food and furniture, while Turkey’s investments in the Gulf country are mostly focused in the consultancy and construction sectors.[47] The Qatar-Turkey pipeline was proposed by Qatar in 2009 in order to connect the two region's natural gas reserves.[48] In fact, natural gas, along with plastic products and chemical derivatives, is among the products mostly imported by Turkey from Qatar.[47]

In 2015, there were more than 200 Turkish companies active in Qatar, whereas the investments made by Qatari businesses in Turkey amounted to around $20 million.[18] In 2015, Qatar had the second highest overall value of investments by any country in Turkey at $20 billion.[44]

Turkey reached an agreement with Qatar to purchase liquefied natural gas over a prolonged period in December 2015.[49] It was opined by analysts that, owing to diplomatic hostilities between Turkey and Russia, the deal was made by Turkey with the intent of replacing Russia with Qatar as its major LNG supplier.[50]

The cooperation between the two countries may soon extend into the field of infrastructure, as the World Cup Supreme Committee of Qatar, which will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, has recently announced a collaboration agreement with the Turkish Football Federation.[51]

Cultural relations[edit]

On 4 December 2013, Erdoğan inaugurated the new headquarters of the country's embassy in Doha and announced the establishment of a Turkish cultural center in Qatar.[52] The construction of a 'Turkish village' in Doha was launched in September 2014 in the midst of a visit by President Erdoğan.[53] The village is set to occupy approximately 400,000 sq meters and will feature traditional Ottoman markets, hotels and other service facilities.[18]

The Qatar–Turkey 2015 Year of Culture was implemented by the Qatari government as an initiative to improve cultural cooperation between the two countries.[54]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]