2014-10-21

Turkey-Qatar relations deepen amid ISIL insurgency

The two members of the international anti-ISIL coalition pledge to step up military and intelligence co-operation.

By Menekse Tokyay for SES Türkiye in Istanbul -- 21/10/14

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As the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) continues its rampage, Turkey and Qatar have pledged to form a model partnership against extremism.

  • Turkish armoured vehicles patrol the border on October 12th near the Syrian town of Kobane, near the southeastern village of Mursitpinar in Sanliurfa. [AFP]

    Turkish armoured vehicles patrol the border on October 12th near the Syrian town of Kobane, near the southeastern village of Mursitpinar in Sanliurfa. [AFP]

  • A Kurdish man sits at the border area close to Kobane, where heavy fighting between ISIL militants and Kurdish fighters is taking place, on Friday (October 16th). [AFP]

    A Kurdish man sits at the border area close to Kobane, where heavy fighting between ISIL militants and Kurdish fighters is taking place, on Friday (October 16th). [AFP]

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently paid an official visit to the Qatari capital of Doha, where the allies agreed to establish a high-level strategic council and deepen their co-operation on energy and infrastructure. Both countries have answered calls to support international efforts against ISIL.

"Turkey and Qatar are showing a joint and principled stance towards regional and international developments," Ahmet Demirok, Turkey's ambassador to Qatar, told SES Türkiye. "The stance of Turkey and Qatar against ISIL is clear. Both countries consider this group a structure challenging regional peace and stability, and they continue their struggle against ISIL."

Demirok added that Ankara and Doha plan to deepen their ties.

"We can take joint initiatives in the resolution of many problems in our shared region and I believe our co-operation will be further strengthened in the future," he said. "We are working hard to transform our region into a haven of peace and stability and I think we have shown an exemplary partnership model so far."

Qatar was one of 10 Middle Eastern countries to sign a communique in Jeddah pledging to take action against ISIL, and it has committed to do more to halt the flow of money and fighters to the group.

On the eve of his visit to Qatar, Erdogan said that the regional policies of Ankara and Doha overlap, adding that "in recent years there have been very positive developments in Turkey-Qatar bilateral relations."

"The security and stability of the Gulf region is as important as Turkey's security and stability," Erdogan added.

Emrah Usta, a Qatar-based political analyst from Turkey, said Turkey and Qatar have deep intelligence ties. The fact that Erdogan was hosted by the Emir of Qatar and accompanied by intelligence chief Hakan Fidan showed that "there will be a mutual fight against ISIL," according to Usta.

"After rescuing its 49 diplomatic personnel from ISIL, it can be said that Turkey went from being inactive to an active condition against ISIL," Usta told SES Türkiye.

He added that the Turkey-Qatar relations in the fields of energy and trade are also deepening, helping Turkey project influence in the broader region.

"Qatar is an appropriate entry gate that enables Turkey to recognise Gulf countries," he said.

Turkish companies have focused on large-scale construction projects in Qatar, including the construction of highways, airports, industrial facilities and residential developments, with investments reaching approximately $15.1 billion. In 2013, bilateral trade reached $769 million.

During Erdogan's visit, the two parties signed an agreement under which Qatar will provide Turkey with 1.2 billion cubic metres of natural gas this winter.

Turkish firms will compete for construction contracts as Qatar prepares to host the World Cup in 2022, Erdogan said in remarks to reporters prior to his visit.

"For us, the projects that Turkish firms could undertake in infrastructure are very important. Whether it's stadiums, metro, roads, I believe that Turkish firms are trustworthy and that they will take a leading role as investors," he said. HAVELSAN, a leading Turkish defence firm, provides simulators and software assistance to the Airborne Warning and Control System in Qatar.

Expanding the co-operation to the cultural front, 2015 will be celebrated as "Turkey-Qatar Cultural Year" in Turkey. However, Osman Bahadir Dincer, a Middle East expert from the Ankara-based think-tank USAK, said Turkey-Qatar relations will be insignificant unless Turkey develops good relations with others in the region.

"Under the current chaotic circumstances, Turkey should act jointly with others -- like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Iraq -- who are more or less prominent in regional balances and have an influence over the regional communities," Dincer told SES Türkiye, adding that Turkey should also strengthen co-operation with the West.

What role would you like Turkey to play in the international coalition against ISIL? Share your thoughts in the comments area.

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