Nov 15 2017

Erdoğan in Doha: Making hay from Qatar’s crisis

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s two-day visit to Qatar and Kuwait this week constitutes an attempt to make economic gains for Turkey out of the Qatar crisis, experts in the Gulf Region told Ahval.

Doha is refusing to cave in to demands made by a coalition of countries led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) which have cut diplomatic ties and are seeking to cut off the small Gulf state through sanctions and closing their borders.

Saudi and the UAE have accused Qatar of aiding and sheltering terrorist groups and of interfering in their domestic affairs.

The value of Turkish exports to Qatar has almost doubled since the crisis began, and Fikret Özer, Turkey’s ambassador to Doha, has announced that an agreement to allow Turkish goods to travel by land through Iran is waiting to be signed.

Plus, Özer said, Qatar was undertaking major defence projects together with Turkish companies including Aselsan and Havelsan, including the projected opening of Qatar’s first ammunition factory mid-next month.

Yet experts say that the visit from Turkey will not be any real help in solving the crisis.

“Erdogan’s visit to Kuwait and Qatar does not go beyond providing moral support to the political leadership in Qatar,” Bahraini writer Abdullah al-Junaid told Ahval.

This was echoed by the Salman al-Ansari, the head of the Saudi–American Public Relations Affairs Committee, who told Ahval that Erdogan’s visit “meant nothing” for the crisis.

The Saudi writer Ghazi al-Harthy, meanwhile, saw the move as an attempt to tip the regional balance in favour of a Turkey–Iran–Qatar axis, in particular during a period when the whole region has become polarised, and policy is becoming increasingly defined by various alliances.

“It seems that Erdogan has realised that he will lack room to manoeuvre during the coming phase,” al-Harthy told Ahval.

“He is, therefore, exploiting the current crisis for soft power gain, in contrast to his ally in Iran, which is expanding its hard power,” he added.