Cavusoglu Visit to Saudi Arabia – Is Turkey’s Regional Policy Actually Working?

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According to international news agencies, the quiet visit of Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu to Saudi Arabia is an important event that shows that Ankara is seeking to end the problems and differences in regional foreign policy and work on “zero tension with neighbors” and the countries of the region.

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This is the first time since the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, A Turkish official sets foot in Riyadh.

Despite this level of political and diplomatic importance, the Turkish media has remained silent about the purpose, motives and details of the trip.

Mevlut Cavusoglu wrote and published a short tweet in which he said: “We are in Saudi Arabia to discuss our bilateral relations and discuss important issues of concern to our region, especially the attacks on Al-Aqsa Mosque and the persecution of the Palestinian people.”

Cavusoglu arrived in Saudi Arabia at a time when two other important events in Turkish regional politics have occurred in the past ten days:

  1. A delegation of Turkish diplomats headed by the Deputy Foreign Minister traveled to Cairo and held talks with Egyptian diplomats for two days.
  1. Away from the usual media hype, the new Turkish ambassador has been sent to the Emirates.

According to many Turkish political analysts, in addition to highlighting the importance of developments in the Eastern Mediterranean, the American foreign policy factor also had a major impact on Turkish diplomacy.

“As a result of many efforts, Turkey was able to sit down with two brothers in the Arab world, Egypt and Saudi Arabia,” Turkish analyst Burak Tuygan wrote.

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“Undoubtedly, the election of Joe Biden, who has revitalized fault lines in the Middle East, plays an important role in these changes.”

Evidence indicates that the Turkish Foreign Ministry was able to obtain concessions for the Muslim Brotherhood.

However, the truth is that the Turkish-Egyptian relations differ from the Turkish-Saudi relations in terms of political and economic interests.

For example, Turkey and Egypt recalled their ambassadors and downgraded the relationship to a plenipotentiary level. But commercial relations continued without interruption.

Trade volume of $ 5.2 billion in 2013, when Mohamed Morsi fell from power, has remained at roughly the same level to this day.

But there were also economic problems in diplomatic relations between Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

After the second half of 2017, and since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman assumed full power, the volume of trade and investment between Turkey and Saudi Arabia has decreased sharply.

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The government spokesman said that Turkish exports to Saudi Arabia fell from 200 million dollars to 11 million dollars in April, down 94.4 percent from the previous year.

While Saudi Arabia was previously the largest investor in Turkey, it withdrew most of these investments.

Of course, the losses and costs of severing Turkish relations with Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and Egypt were not limited to trade, and the evidence indicates that Saudi Arabia and Egypt played an important role in preventing Turkey temporarily from Joining the United Nations Security Council in October 2014.

They believed that Turkey was using the Muslim Brotherhood as a playing card in the case of Syria and Egypt, and that the main motivation for Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Egypt to form an anti-Turkey triangle and boycott Qatar was closely related to Turkey’s policies.

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An important political and security aspect in the relations between Turkey and Saudi Arabia is the special position of Mohammed bin Salman and Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan towards the Turkish military presence in Qatar.

And they had previously stated the necessity to close the Turkish military base in Qatar.

But Qatar has not given up on the offer, and evidence suggests that Saudi and Emirati sensitivities toward Turkish military activity in Qatar have now diminished somewhat.

However, it remains unclear how Mohammed bin Salman will act in future Turkish-Saudi relations.

Will Turkey win his heart and in the short term the differences will fade away?

What does Erdogan say?

Although Erdogan, who was a former member of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) as prime minister and later in his first term in office, tended to act in most areas on his orders and direct will.

As the Turkish political system and executive power shifted from parliament to the presidency.

Erdogan has more tools and opportunities to accept his views, and opposition leaders use the term “one-man system” to describe the mechanism of decision-making and implementation in present-day Turkey.

They believe in the impartiality and ineffectiveness of the House of Representatives and the conduct of its affairs according to the president’s personal rules and decisions.

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The scope of this criticism also extends to foreign policy

Critics also say that in recent years, Turkey’s diplomatic apparatus has abandoned evaluations of ambassadors, diplomats and consultants and is subject only to the president’s personal views and opinions.

Namik Tan, a former Turkish ambassador to the United States and a senior official, said:

“In the past few years, our Foreign Ministry came out of the diplomatic arena, and the country’s foreign policy was completely organized and managed in the presidential palace.”

“This matter raises questions about the credibility of our diplomatic apparatus and our ambassadors,” he added.

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In conclusion, the evidence of the past few months shows the fact that the Turkish diplomatic apparatus has understood the importance of regional relations more than ever before.

Over the past few years, Turkey has devoted most of its foreign policy capacity to building good relations with the United States and the European Union, neglecting the importance of regional relations due to a series of strategic mistakes.

But in the current context, important issues such as the importance of political, economic and security developments in the eastern Mediterranean, developments in the Arab world and Africa, as well as Turkey’s increasing need to develop trade relations, have brought its diplomatic apparatus to the point where relations with the countries of the region are more fulfilling and important.