Turkey is aiming at the Persian Gulf in order to extend its sphere of influence and economic and commercial cooperation. Important military pacts signed.
The Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, recently visited three countries in the region: Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. In Bahrain, the Turkish head of State met King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa from whom he received the honorary award of the “Sheikh Isa bin Salman al Khalifa Medal”, described by Erdogan as “a sign of the brotherhood existing between the peoples of Turkey and those of Bahrain”.
In Saudi Arabia, the Turkish Head of State met King Salman and emphasised how the two states “share the same views on regional questions” and how they are bound by common interests in the commercial, economic and political fields. Finally, In Qatar, Erdogan was received with full military honours by Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.
Economic relations between Turkey and the Gulf states increased between 2007 and 2016, together with improved diplomatic relations. In the past decade, Turkish exports to the three countries amounted to $33 billion while total external commerce with the three countries reached $53 billion in the same period.
Saudi Arabia has become Turkey’s main trading partner, importing goods to the value of $27 billion in the past decade, followed by Qatar with $3.87 billion and Bahrain which imported $1.66 billion worth of Turkish goods. In the same period, Turkey imported $16.3 billion worth of goods and services from Saudi Arabia, $2.8 billion worth from Qatar and $1.28 billion worth from Bahrain. Last year, the volume of interchange between Turkey and the Gulf States amounted to around $6.2 billion.
Qatar, strategic relations
In an interview with the Doha daily “Al Arab”, the Turkish President underlined that Turkey and Qatar have “the same strong political will to promote and reinforce strategic bilateral relations “, as has been shown by the creation in December 2014, of a Supreme Joint Strategic Committee. “Since then – Erdogan explained – we have seen significant improvements in relations between the two countries “with more than 30 agreements being signed in the past three years. Erdogan added that “Turkey will not forget the support and solidarity shown by Qatar after the failed coup on 15 July, last”.
Ankara signed a cooperation agreement with Qatar in December, 2014, for military training and the defence industry, Erdogan recalled, adding that the two countries maintain peace in the region and the fight against terrorism. Qatar also announced that it was ready to supply Turkey with liquefied natural gas with flexible conditions. So stated the minister for Energy and Industry of Qatar, Mohammed al Sada. “We have at least two agreements with Turkey that do not specify quantities”, the minister said, explaining that supplies would vary according to the requirements of Turkish consumers. “Turkey is already increasing its imports of LNG and its storage capacity – Sada added – I believe it is an excellent policy to help Turkey to diversify its sources of energy supplies with flexible conditions”.
Ankara imports LGN from seven countries, one of which is Qatar from which it imports 68.5% of the total. Turkish imports of LNG make up 5.15% of all natural gas imports. Qatar, for its part, considers Turkey a sound investment in various sectors.
Lastly, Turkish exports to Qatar in 2016 amounted to $440 million, consisting mostly of ships, yachts, furniture and electronic equipment, while imports from Doha amounted to $271 million, mostly in the form of oil, petroleum products, aluminium and plastic materials. Turkish sources say that, in Qatar, more than 200 projects are in progress with investments amounting to $200 billion, mostly in infrastructure, especially attractive to Turkish companies. Qatar is also planning to build new stadiums in view of the football World Cup finals in 2022.
Turkish exports to Bahrain have increased by more than 150% during the past decade and last year they amounted to $193 million. Manama imports mostly iron and steel, two-wheeled vehicles and tobacco industry products from Turkey. Fossil fuels, railway equipment, electric and electronic goods made up the main sub-categories of goods imported from Bahrain, amounting to $127 million in 2016. Manama and Ankara have also signed an agreement for the construction of 20 housing units in Turkey.
Fossil fuels and plastic material are the largest group of Turkish imports from Saudi Arabia. In 2016, Turkey imported from Riyadh goods to the value of $1.83 million, while exports amounted to $3.17 million. Ankara exports to Saudi Arabia mainly domestic electrical goods, carpets and floor coverings. Yusuf Cevahir, head of the Turkey-Saudi Arabia economic Council, explained to the “Daily Sabah” that the two countries can further deepen their economic relations in sectors “of mutual interest”, such as engineering and industrial production. “relations with Ankara and Riyadh will reach their highest level in the near future”, said Cevahir, explaining that, given the increase in population in Saudi Arabia and the need for new housing, it would be useful to create a joint institution like the Turkish Toki (Administration for Housing development). Cevahir also asked that taxes on entrance visas for Turkish citizens entering Saudi Arabia be removed or reduced. (J.N.)