Turkish President Opens New Chapter in Relations with Gulf States

Abdullah Gul has travelled to the UAE in a bid to spearhead closer trade relations between Turkey and the Emirates. The shift toward the Gulf also comes in the context of regional upheaval, with Foreign Minister Davutoglu stating that Turkey seeks to distance itself from regimes "resisting change." Mohammad Noureddine reports.

al-monitor FMs Prince Saud of Saudi Arabia, Davutoglu of Turkey and Sheikh Abdullah of UAE pose for a group photo during the fourth ministerial meeting of Turkey-GCC in Istanbul 28/01/2012. Photo by REUTERS/Murad Sezer.

Topics covered

military, gcc

Feb 7, 2012

The visit of Turkish President Abdullah Gul to the UAE, accompanied by a large number of Turkish businessmen, reflected the new policy of Turkey, which broke apart from the axis of its neighboring countries that are “resisting change." Ankara sought rapprochement with countries that “do not need changes” and has established good relations with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), as confirmed by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

Gul's visit to the UAE was preceded by the fourth joint ministerial council meeting between Turkey and the GCC, which was held in Istanbul in February 3, 2012. Steps to expand the horizons of political and financial cooperation between Turkey and the states of the Arab Gulf are gaining speed.

On the day Gul headed to Dubai, the news about Qatar requesting the purchase of Saudi Oger’s share in Turk Telekom,  the Turkish telecommunications company, hit the headlines of every Turkish newspaper. The company's share amounts to 55 percent of the total. Qatar is said to be ready to pay $8.6 billion for this deal. Qatar is also likely to buy Deniz Bank for $6 billion, and 52 percent of Turkuaz Media, the Turkish media corporation that includes the ATV television channel and Sabah daily newspaper.

Gul's visit is the first by a Turkish president to the UAE in 15 years, although Gul did visit the Emirates in 2005 as foreign minister.

The Center for Turkish Studies on the Middle East, based in Ankara, addressed this visit in a political report, describing it as a clear support for the GCC's policies on the situation in Syria.

The visit was primarily intended to develop bilateral economic relations, and to produce common policies on regional issues, the report said.

At one level, Turkey seeks to acquire contracts for a large share of the development projects within the UAE and Dubai, amounting to about $300 billion between now and 2030. To date, Turkish investment in the UAE’s construction sector alone amounts to about $7 billion.

Furthermore, every year, Turkey exports $3.3 billion worth of goods to the UAE, which has a population of six million people. The significance of this figure is highlighted when compared to Turkey's exports to Iran — with a population of 75 million people — that amount to only $3 billion.  

At another level, Gul's visit comes within the context of regional tensions as a strong message of support for the Gulf states, said the report.

Moreover, Gul's statements in the UAE were striking, as he expressed his despair over the situation in Syria. "It is too late for the Syrian regime to take any measures for reform," said the Turkish president.

Turkey clearly supports the Arab countries' position regarding UN military intervention in Syria, in addition to the security measures that could be taken in the Strait of Hormuz.

According to the report, the fourth joint meeting between Turkey and the GCC, held a few days ago, reflected Turkey's support for the Arab Leagues' plans to refer the Syrian crisis to the UN. The Turkish president also thanked the Arab countries for receiving Syrian refugees on their territories.

The report concluded that Turkish and Gulf policies are perfectly harmonized in regards to regional issues.

More from  Mohammad Noureddine