Fault lines may widen in Turkey-Qatar relations - report

Cracks are appearing in political relations between Turkey and Qatar, which have established a strong regional partnership in the Middle East, Arab News said.

Following anti-Turkish coverage by Qatari-owned news channel Al Jazeera, which sparked a strong backlash from newspapers in Turkey close to the government, Qatar’s plans to take a share in hydrocarbon wealth off ethnically-divided Cyprus and a $4.4 billion refinery venture in Egypt have become potential points of contention, according to Arab News.

Analysts see Qatar’s plans to become more active in the Mediterranean as an effort to consolidate a regional footprint and ensure its continued existence. At the same time, they say divisions between Turkey and Qatar shouldn’t be overstated, they say.

 “Qatar’s refinery venture in Egypt goes back to 2012. As for its share in the drilling operations off the southern coast of Cyprus, Qatar made a strategic business choice to partner with Exxon. Of course, there are political implications,” said Michael Tanchum, senior fellow at the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy, Arab News reported.

Qatar is taking part in drilling off Cyprus despite Turkey’s objections to exploration, led by the Greek Cypriot government and foreign contractors who also include Italy’s Eni and Total of France. Ankara has started its own search for oil and gas in the area, prompting threats of economic sanctions by the European Union and declarations of illegality by the United States.

Turkey will not be able to alter Qatar’s foreign policy paradigms, which are focused on ensuring that it can remain an independent entity, said Gallia Lindenstrauss, senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv

“Turkey cannot change the basic traits of Qatari foreign policy, which is very active and has close contacts at times with opposing sides to various conflicts in the Middle East. Qatar also uses its vast resources as an insurance policy,” Arab News cited Lindenstrauss as saying.