Erdoğan meets Qatari Emir in first visit abroad since COVID-19 outbreak

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has travelled to Qatar for a day of meetings on Thursday, and met with Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the Presidential Communications Directorate said in a statement.

The two leaders were to discuss the “relations between the two friendly and brotherly countries” in “all aspects,” according to a previous statement.

In images released by Erdoğan’s office, the president was seen occasionally wearing a face mask, which he removed during the meetings.

Erdoğan left Turkey for the first time for the Doha meetings since the coronavirus pandemic took hold in the country in March.

Erdoğan is now in urgent need of more Doha money, and was looking to pressure Qatar’s ruling Al-Thani family today, Ahval Arabic editor Ghassan Ibrahim said, to finance his expansion program in the region - especially after he drained Turkey’s money in its military incursions, adding to the strain of the growing economic crisis threatening the country.

The Turkish president is trying to warn the Al-Thani family that Turkish military bases in Doha will become the only refuge to protect Qatar, especially since the United States is weighing the option to close its bases, Ghassan said.

It has been widely reported by international media that Turkey has turned to Qatar to finance Erdoğan’s foreign projects and wars in Syria, Libya, and most recently in Iraq.

Another reason for the visit is Erdoğan’s new financial and economic expectations from Qatar, journalist and Ahval contributor Zülfikar Doğan said in an Ahval podcast, adding that the move should be considered in the context of recent developments in domestic politics.

The Turkish government is pushing to take control of the last pieces of democratic grounds where Turkish society and the opposition can “take a breath of air,” Doğan said, as it “leaves Turkey breathless.”

These radical proposals aim to divert attention from the economic trouble in the country, Doğan added.

Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has several highly-significant proposals in progress, to transform Turkey’s election system, bar associations, procedures for the employment of public servants, and freedom of speech via new restrictions on social media platforms.

Qatar is also suffering from a financial crisis, Ghassan said, as a result of low oil and gas prices in addition to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. “Qatar is in double trouble,” he added. “It is obliged to protect itself militarily, and thus finance Erdoğan's projects, but remains concerned about the absolute submission to Erdoğan's ambitions and his growing influence, even within Qatar.”

“The ruling family in Qatar knows that Erdoğan's foreign projects are aimed at enabling him in the upcoming Turkish presidential elections, but Qatar is concerned about the possibility of these projects failing in Syria, Libya and Iraq, consequently Qatar has a growing fear of becoming a pariah state not only from the neighboring countries but the entire Arab region,” Ghassan said.

There are apparent Qatari concerns that the United States will shut down the American base in Doha which is supposed to protect the country, in conjunction with Erdoğan's need for more Qatari funds to finance military intervention in Syria, Libya and Iraq.

Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani, Former Prime Minister of Qatar, in a tweet message, said, “The new policy by which the United States appears to be heading to withdraw from some regions of the world, or to reduce its military presence in it, may cost the world's greatest power a lot The Americans explain this trend with the economic burdens of having their military bases around the world.