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According to the contemporary strategy. The turning point is the presence of Turkish forces in Qatar was in 2000, but after the start of the Arab Gulf crisis (2017-2021). The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the many Arab countries besieging Qatar became more prominent. Turkey played an important and decisive role in providing assistance to Qatar in the darkest days of the crisis, as it helped provide a sustainable source of food and other necessities for the country.
The Qatari-Turkish relations improved significantly during this period, and the political, economic and cultural relations between the two countries increased.
With the apparent end of the Arab Gulf crisis (the blockade of Qatar) in January 2021, it is expected that the restoration of trade relations between Qatar and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will reduce the importance of Turkey and its role in the country.
However, there is limited evidence to support this hypothesis. On the contrary, the strategic partnership between Qatar and Turkey is in the interest of both countries, and the leaders of the two countries concluded that preserving the integrity of the alliance will ensure economic and political stability in the two countries.
Although the close relations between Saudi Arabia and Qatar are very good news, unless they are strengthened, relations between Turkey and Qatar will remain stable.
Turkey and Qatar, increasing ties
Turkish-Qatari relations go back to the late nineteenth century. When the Ottoman Empire brought the Arabian Peninsula, including present-day Qatar, into its sphere of influence.
After decades of tension, conflict, and sometimes peace and cooperation, the Turks dropped their claims to Qatar in July 1913.
Due to the declining population of Qatar and poor economic performance in the late twentieth century, economic relations between Turkey and Qatar were low until the late 1990s and early 2000s.
At the beginning of the twenty-first century, Qatar has emerged as a major player in the global LNG market, and Turkey has managed to deal with severe inflation and political instability that has paralyzed its economy since the 1960s.
The emerging link between economic growth and stability between the two countries has opened new opportunities for trade and economic cooperation.
In 2000, trade between the two countries was only $ 38 million. By 2016, that number had increased more than 21 times to nearly $ 818 million.
Turkish-Qatari relations after the Arab Gulf crisis
As a direct result of the Saudi-led blockade of Qatar in 2017, trade between Turkey and Qatar increased to about $ 2.2 billion in 2019.
The past decade has seen a steady increase in Turkish exports to Qatar – with an exponential growth rate of 587% between 2011 and 2019 – while Qatari exports to Turkey have fluctuated from year to year, indicating the volatile nature of LNG prices in global markets.
However, Qatar’s exports to Turkey increased by about 25% during the same period.
Not only is the volume of trade between the two countries increasing, but the two economies are becoming major trading partners.
This fact shows that bilateral trade between Qatar and Turkey, as a share of the total trade of each country, increased steadily between 2011 and 2019.
The growing economic ties between Turkey and Qatar have been strengthened since 2002 through increased military cooperation between the two countries.
The 2015 agreements paved the way for the establishment of a Turkish military base in Qatar and vice versa.
With the beginning of the blockade in 2017, the Turkish army presence in Qatar multiplied 10 times, reaching about 3,000 soldiers.
The Turkish cultural presence is also increasing in Qatar.
Since 2021, two schools in Doha have been operating according to the Turkish curriculum, to meet the needs of the growing Turkish population living and working in Doha.
The impact of the Doha – Riyadh settlement on Turkish-Qatari relations
Recent steps to normalize relations between Qatar and Saudi Arabia have raised concerns about the nature of Qatari-Turkish relations.
However, Qatari officials assured their Turkish counterparts that any normalization with Saudi Arabia will not affect Qatar’s economic, political and military relations with Turkey.
The reason is clear: these relations between Qatar and Turkey have grown significantly in recent decades, and the two countries agree on many political and security issues in the Middle East and the Arabic Gulf, including agreements that are unlikely to affect the new Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
To this end, in November 2020, Ankara and Doha signed 10 new agreements following the sixth meeting of the Supreme Strategic Committee between Turkey and Qatar, chaired by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.
The number of economic, military and cultural agreements between the two countries reached 62.
Also, by the year 2019, more than 500 Turkish companies and institutions and 170 Qatari institutions have started working in each other’s territories.
Turkish construction companies are currently playing an important and decisive role in developing the Qatari infrastructure before the 2022 World Cup.
Since 2002, more than $ 18 billion in construction contracts have been signed between Qatar and Turkey.
In 2019, Qatar was the seventh largest construction market for Turkish companies, with projects worth around $ 1.5 billion.
More recently, in May 2020, the currency exchange agreement between Turkey and Qatar increased from $ 5 billion to $ 15 billion.
This has helped Turkey boost the capital and foreign exchange markets and reduce the recent downward pressure on the Turkish lira.
This is in addition to Qatar’s commitment of $ 15 billion to the Turkish market. In the past two decades, Qatar’s direct investment in Turkey has reached $ 3 billion and is only expected to increase.
Many of the goods and services traded between the two countries are of a strategic and vital nature for the well-being of the economy and its residents. Qatar’s main imports from Turkey include iron and steel, machinery and electrical equipment, construction services, tourism, tools and equipment, dairy products, vegetables and fruits.
In contrast, Turkish imports from Qatar include liquefied natural gas and petroleum products. Turkey considers Qatar the best option to reduce dependence on gas imports from Russia in the long term.
Turkey’s important role in the stability of the Arabian Gulf
The economic, security and cultural relations between Qatar and Turkey are now much stronger than before, and it is expected that any normalization between Qatar and Saudi Arabia and other besieging countries will not lead to a change in this relationship.
Indeed, Turkey welcomed the recent agreement to end the blockade of Qatar as a positive step that would contribute to the stability, security and prosperity of the Arab Gulf and the Middle East.
The close relations between Qatar and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, along with the change in the new US administration that favors diplomacy and dialogue, and Qatar’s recent offer to resume talks between Iran and the Arab Gulf states, create all new opportunities for stability and peace in the Arabian Gulf. There is no doubt that Turkey has an important role to play in seizing these opportunities.