Turkey and Qatar: Behind the strategic alliance

Turkey and Qatar: Behind the strategic alliance
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, shakes hands with Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in Ankara in September [AP]

The third meeting of Turkey-Qatar Supreme Strategic Committee kicked off in Istanbul on Tuesday. Al Jazeera examines the strategic relationship binding the two countries.

Military ties

  • In an extraordinary session on June 7, Turkey’s parliament ratified two 2014 deals allowing Turkish troops to be deployed in Qatar and another approving an accord between the two countries on military training cooperation.
  • The agreements aimed to raise Qatar’s defence capabilities, support “counter-terror” efforts and maintain security and stability in the region.
  • Five armoured vehicles and 23 military Turkish military personnel arrived in Doha on June 18 with plans to increase the number of troops to 3,000 and keep a brigade in the Gulf country.
  • The blockading countries have set the closure of the Turkish base in Qatar as one of 13 conditions to restore relations with Doha.
  • Contrary to the blockading countries, Qatar and Turkey condemned the 2013 military coup that brought Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to power in Egypt.
  • During the attempted Turkish coup in 2016, Qatar quickly offered support to its government, and, as noted by the Turkish ambassador to Qatar, “Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani was the first leader to call President Erdogan and express support to our government and Turkish people.”

Turkey is protecting its own interests through the base in Qatar, rather than taking sides between the parties at odds. And Ankara’s interests require stability in the region. Therefore, Turkey would be against an attack on Saudi Arabia as much as Qatar”

Yasin Aktay, Turkey’s Justice and Development Party

Food security

  • When the Gulf crisis erupted, and Saudi Arabia closed Qatar’s only land border, it blocked many vital imports from reaching Qatar, including basic food supplies. To avoid potential food shortages, within 24 hours of the blockade Turkey sent cargo planes full of milk, yoghurt and poultry.
  • Exports to Qatar increased by 84 percent since the blockade started, and Turkey was Qatar’s fourth-largest customer for non-oil exports. In 2016, exports from Turkey to Qatar totalled about $500m, and goods heading back amounted to nearly $250m.
  • Because of longer import routes, Qatari food and beverage prices jumped 4.2 percent in August. Turkish ambassador to Qatar, Fikret Ozer, said on Monday: “We are bringing many products here, but there is no land route between Turkey and Qatar. But now there is a cooperation between Qatar and Iran and Turkey, and there will be a new route between these countries.”
  • Qatar has invested $444m in a 530,000-square metre food storage and processing facility at its Hamad Port.
  • Turkey hopes its improved trade relations with Qatar will outlive the blockade. “The Turkish products [we export] are of very high quality. Even if the embargo [on Qatar] is [lifted], our products will be permanent there,” said Sinan Kiziltan, chairman of the Aegean Aquatic Products and the Animal Products Exporters’ Union.
  • As part of its National Food Security Program, Qatar is aiming to produce 70 percent of its food requirements by 2024.

We started to import food, milk and other such items from Turkey on the first day of the blockade

Sheikh Ahmed Bin Jassim Al Thani, Qatar’s Minister of Economy and Trade, said in an interview with Al Jazeera

Qatari investments

  • Even before the blockade, Qatar had a lot of trust in the Turkish economy. In May, Qatar’s Chamber of Commerce Vice Chairman Mohamed bin Twar said: “Turkish companies here are handling projects worth about $11.6bn in Qatar, most of which is put into FIFA World Cup 2022 projects.”
  • “Qatar’s investment to Turkey is over $20bn, the second highest value of investments by any country in Turkey,” bin Twar added.
  • Turkish media reported Qatar would invest a further $19bn in Turkey in 2018, with $650m going to agriculture and livestock.
  • “Due to its attractive investment advantages as well as its strong relations with Qatar,” the Qatar Chamber encourages Qatari businessmen to invest in Turkey.

Qatari-Turkish relations are distinct and can serve as a model for other countries

Mohamed bin Twar, Qatar Chamber vice chairman