Five things to know about the Turkish president’s visit to Qatar
During a two-day visit to Qatar that ended last night, Turkish President Recep Tayipp Erdogan and the Emir signed more than a dozen agreements that cemented ties in areas including defense, energy education and travel.
The two countries have grown especially close since last year, when Qatar became the first Arab country Erdogan officially visited since the beginning of his term.
Over the past several months, officials established the current Qatar-Turkey year of culture, and in March, a prominent street in Istanbul was named after the Gulf country, reportedly to demonstrate the “friendship, relationship and brotherhood ties” between the states.
In total, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and Erdogan signed 16 agreements yesterday following the first meeting of the newly-established Qatari-Turkish Supreme Strategic Committee, according to statements on the Turkish President’s official website and Qatar’s state news agency QNA.
While limited information has so far been officially released on the content of all the latest deals, here’s a run-down on the five main things to have come out of Erdogan’s visit:
Turkey will establish a military base in Qatar, which will be the first such base it has in the Gulf, according to Turkish media.
“Turkish and Qatari armies conducted their first joint military drill. Some of our soldiers, who will be deployed at a military base to be established in Qatar, have started their duties,” The Daily Sabah quoted Erdogan as saying.
Earlier this year, details were published in the Turkish military’s Official Gazette of a defense deal struck late last year between Qatar and Turkey.
This includes mechanisms to allow the deployment of joint forces if needed. Both countries will also exchange operational training experiences, cooperate in defense industry and hold joint military exercises.
Both countries will also allow the use of each other’s ports, airports and air space, as Turkey and Qatar agreed to cooperate in fighting terrorism, Turkey’s state-run news wire Anadolu Agency (AA) reported in June.
Once constructed, the base will host between 3,000 and 5,000 soldiers and will include units from Turkish ground, naval and air forces as well as special forces, Today’s Zaman said.
It’s going to be easier for Qataris and Turks to visit each other. In a bilateral deal Erdogan referred to as the “16th agreement,” the two states lifted the requirement for visas when traveling between the countries.
Speaking to reporters yesterday, Erdogan said:
“The citizens of the two countries can now travel easily. This was a last minute step and I thank my dear brother Sheikh Tamim very much for that.”
Qatar Petroleum and Turkey’s Petroleum Pipeline Corporation (BOTAS) signed an unspecified “long-term agreement” for the trade of liquified natural gas (LNG), AA reported, citing Turkey’s Energy and Natural Resources Ministry.
The details of the memorandum will be agreed and signed at a later date, the news agency added.
Hinting that such agreements would be favorable after Turkey’s breakdown in relations with Russia, Erdoğan said:
“As you know, the Qatar Petroleum had a bid to invest in LNG in Turkey for a long time. Due to the known developments in Turkey, they set off on a search as to what kind of steps they could take in LNG and LNG storage. We expressed that we viewed this positively.”
Trade volume between the two countries is already worth $1.3 billion, and Erdogan said he hoped this would continue to grow in the coming years.
Qatar University bestowed its first honorary doctorate to Erdogan in a ceremony at the university yesterday afternoon.
Erdogan received the honor from QU President Dr. Hassan Rashid al Derham, who said, “As Qatari-Turkish relations witness significant developments in the field of economy, this visit will foster further cooperation between the two countries in the area of education and culture.”
Among the education-related agreements signed between Qatar’s Emir and Erdogan was one for the establishment of a joint Qatari-Turkish university, Gulf Times reported.
At the QU ceremony, the Turkish president spoke in detail about political issues affecting regional stability, focusing on Palestine, Syria and its ongoing dispute with Russia.
He also emphasized that “Turkey and Qatar share a unique relation in the joint struggle against terror. I would like to express by happiness over this relation.”
The Emir added to this, saying:
“We are all concerned with the fight against terrorism, but must search for the main reason for the emergence of terrorist groups, we all agree that the reason is the repressive regimes in the region,” QNA reported.
Erdogan talked at length about the recent downing of a Russian plane, which Turkey claimed had breached its airspace.
He said the decision had been taken after repeated warnings and following a similar such incident, which he discussed personally with Russian premier Vladimir Putin during the G20 summit.
“He said it would not happen again. I said ‘It happened a second time.’ He said ‘I do not know about it’ and he turned to his friends and warned them.”
But he added that Turkey was looking at ways to stop the dispute from worsening, and was quoted as saying by the presidency’s official website:
“We did not target a country specifically. Turkey has no intention to escalate the situation. I hope diplomacy and channels of dialogue will be used and common sense will prevail. Adding fuel to the fire benefits no one.
Turkey and Russia have tremendous potential for cooperation. We have not acted based on our emotions and we will not do so. We will do whatever is required by international diplomacy,”