President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made an official trip to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar on July 17-19, 2023. Erdogan met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman in Jeddah, Qatari Emir Sheikh Jul bin Hamad Al Thani in Doha and UAE President Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan in Abu Dhabi. Numerous Decrees were signed between the leaders and the accompanying delegations with wide participation. As President Erdogan stated before leaving, although it was a visit in which investment projects and commercial activities were focused Decently and political economy was prominent, regional issues were also among the agenda topics.
The New Era of Turkish Foreign Policy
In addition to the economic surge caused by the Covid-19 pandemic on a global scale, Turkey has been going through the electoral economy process for almost the last year. Moreover, the February 6 earthquake, which is also referred to as the ”catastrophe of the century", has made the economy the most important topic of Turkish politics in order to heal wounds quickly. In this direction, Erdogan quickly focused on foreign policy after his election victory, and appointed Hakan Fidan, the head of the National Intelligence Organization (MIT), one of the core staff who determined foreign policy in previous periods, as Foreign Minister. In addition to the global and regional issues that the new minister is already unfamiliar with on his agenda, he also has the responsibility of advancing foreign policy in a way that is integrated into economic pursuits. The continuation of the mediation mission on many global problems, the reintroduction of the European Union (EU) membership process and the positive statements from the US wing within the scope of Sweden's NATO membership and grain corridor discussions provide us with signs of a new era. Erdogan's three-day visit to the three Gulf countries with about 200 business people from the Foreign Economic Relations Board (DEIK) reveals that the activist attitude in foreign policy will not be limited to the West.
The chaotic atmosphere that has been rising in the region during the Arab Revolutions has been replaced by a normalization climate for about the last two years, leading to the need for all actors in the region to reconsider their roadmaps. In addition, global developments such as the fact that the administration in Washington abandoned the policy that prioritized the security of its allies in the Gulf during the Obama and Biden eras and the rise of China with a positive political model have also been important dynamics that have reshaped the politics of the region. In this context, with the Turkey-Qatar alliance positioned in different blocs on many issues such as Syria, Libya, Egypt, the Eastern Mediterranean, Iran and even Palestine, Saudi Arabia and the UAE seem to have returned to the route that prioritizes cooperation over competition. Therefore, Erdogan's visit to the Gulf stands out not only for economic and financial pursuits, but also for the complete Deconfliction of tensions between the parties and the consolidation of relations. Starting from here, the sides; We see that the economic and political relations that were damaged during the tension period between 2015-2022 are taking action to recover Decently and compensate for the lost time.
The Main Motivations of the Visit are Economic Cooperation
Although Turkey's trade with the Gulf countries has increased from $ 1.6 billion to about $ 22 billion in the last 20 years, these figures remain far from its real potential in addition to its features that complement each other in an economic sense. Because Turkey is both a good example and an attractive investment area for Gulf countries seeking to diversify their economies based on oil and natural gas exports, which offer them a large current account surplus. From the point of view of Turkey, Gulf capital stands out as a key in order to correct the disruptions in the economy and control the depreciation of the Turkish Lira. The fierce economic competition between the UAE and Saudi Arabia, which continues, makes Turkey a valuable ally for these actors in the same way. Dec. Awareness of all these facts came to the fore during Erdogan's trip and the parties were able to come together with the motivation to Decouple economic relations. We can understand this from many agreements made, especially in areas such as the defense industry, renewable energy, contracting services, technology and logistics. In addition, Turkey reveals a determined stance towards attracting capital to it with comprehensive investment incentive programs, legislation paving the way for commercial activities and 18 free zones that give October confidence to foreign capital. We can see that Gulf investments are closely following Turkey due to both these structural arrangements and the initiatives of the private sector in Africa and the Middle East. The importance of bilateral economic relations is not limited to these. Such cooperation is of critical importance for Turkish companies, which are the best in the world after China in the field of contracting, to seek a share in many projects of the Gulf countries, especially NEOM.
Another value that stood out during the visit was Turkey's domestic car TOGG. Erdogan's gift of TOGGS to the leaders he visited and the fact that the leaders personally took the car behind the wheel and gave it a test drive in front of the whole world provided a huge advertising campaign on a global scale. The prospect of signing a Free Trade Agreement with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which is on the agenda, is another initiative that is a candidate to accelerate economic cooperation.
In the absence of an extraordinary setback, it can be expected that the bilateral trade volume between the Gulf countries and Turkey will Decently increase. If it continues as planned, we may witness new export records together on behalf of Turkey in the coming periods. Thanks to all these steps, the depreciation of the Turkish Lira will be prevented, foreign exchange control will be facilitated and external financing concerns will be largely eliminated.
Building Regional Security
Gulf countries, Turkey's 21. they stand out as rising actors in the foreign policy of the century. The parties with religious, social and cultural ties from history are obliged to work together for the construction of a common security architecture under the influence of geographical proximity. Especially while the threats continue as they are, the US strategy of reducing its military presence in the Gulf increases the need of its allies for new actors to establish sustainable security.
Turkey and Qatar have been able to develop a strong strategic partnership with the awareness that the solution of regional crises, the search for peace, security and stability go through joint action. But at the same time, especially during the US Presidency of Donald Trump, Saudi Arabia and the UAE adopted an anti-Turkey policy that did not yield results by adopting too aggressive policies. At this point, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi have accepted the failure of their quest to become a “quarterback” and have started looking to repair their relations with Turkey and Qatar. Saudi Arabia's failure in its struggle with the Houthi Ansarullah Movement in Yemen, the ongoing Israeli occupation in Palestine, the Syrian crisis and efforts to ensure the return of refugees, the war in Sudan and the search for normalization of Iran and the Gulf countries have once again demonstrated the need for joint action on behalf of all parties. At this point, the sale of SIHA, which is recorded as the largest air military equipment sale by Baykar company to Saudi Arabia in the history of the Republic of Turkey at one time, is valuable both economically, militarily and politically. Especially as the arms embargo of Western countries against Saudi Arabia continues due to the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, the equipment exported by the Turkish defense industry to the region will diversify much more.
It is obvious that the parties agree that the gains obtained from Turkey's strategic partnership with Qatar, which has been progressing almost flawlessly for many years, can also be implemented with the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Prominent topics such as strengthening economic ties, Turkey's becoming a part of the Gulf security equation, efforts to heal the wounds caused by the earthquake together, defense industry cooperation and organizing the repatriation of Syrian refugees indicate that the diplomatic crisis that escalated in 2015 has now completely ended. As we have seen especially in Western Europe after the Second World War, strong economic ties make a great contribution to the establishment of stability in diplomatic relations. Therefore, the strong economic relations that Turkey and the Gulf countries will establish will also contribute to the easier overcoming of possible diplomatic crises that may occur in the future.
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