Turkey’s Relations with the Gulf Countries: Trends and Drivers

Turkey’s relations with the Gulf countries offer an interesting test case to study the broader transformations in its Middle East policy. This article will examine the different phases of Turkey’s relations with the Gulf countries. The first part will review the growing orientation of Turkey toward the Gulf countries before the onset of the Arab Spring as part of a proactive engagement policy in the Middle East. The second part will study how the new geopolitics of the region after the Arab Spring transformed the nature of Turkey’s relations with the Gulf, laying the foundations for the antagonism between Turkey, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Saudi Arabia on the one hand, and the forging of a closer strategic alignment between Turkey and Qatar on the other hand. The third section will look at Turkey’s relations with the major Gulf countries, namely the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. The paper will conclude with an evaluation of the current standing of the relations, in the wake of the process of normalization between Qatar and the Quartet countries (Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt)

The flourishing ties between Turkey and Gulf countries before the Arab Spring

Traditionally, relations with the Gulf were not a big item on Turkey’s foreign policy agenda. During the last decade of the Cold War, Turkey had a brief opening to the Middle East. There was an interest in developing ties with the Gulf countries, and foundations for some economic and trade ties were laid in the 1980s. Nonetheless, these initiatives failed to turn into a sustained engagement that could boost relations to an altogether new level. The Gulf War (1990-91) and ensuing regional instabilities, among other factors, limited Turkey’s access to the region.

The intensification of Turkey’s relations with the Gulf coincided with the new proactive foreign policy approach under Justice and Development Party (JDP/AKP – Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi), especially after its second term in government. Turkey pursued a new foreign policy approach under which it sought to develop deeper economic and political relations with both its close neighbours and the regions beyond its immediate reach. A major objective of this foreign policy activism was a strategy of diversification: Turkey sought to minimize its reliance on partnership with the Western/European world, and forge new avenues of economic and political cooperation with other regions.

In this phase, Turkey worked to pursue a dynamic approach to deepen the ties with both the individual Gulf Arab countries and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). A big driver of this policy was the economic rationale. The two sides had complementary economic structures, which offered a good basis to deepen investment and trade connections. On the one hand, Gulf countries’ economic-minded approach to international relations and abundant foreign reserves engaged Turkey’s interest as an emerging economy. On the other hand, commercial considerations, particularly concerns about finding new markets for exports and attracting foreign capital into the Turkish economy, started to play a larger role in shaping Ankara’s foreign policy. Consequently, there was a visible increase in the trade volume between Turkey and the Gulf, as well as in the flow of Gulf capital into Turkey.

Moreover, Turkey and the Gulf countries moved in the direction of adding a strategic dialogue dimension to their relations. Since there were many issues of common concern in the Middle Eastern region, such as the conflict in Iraq, the Palestine-Israel dispute, internal tensions in Lebanon, the Iranian nuclear program, etc., both sides expressed interest in engaging in policy coordination and in finding common positions on regional issues. For this reason, they undertook initiatives to institutionalize some form of political dialogue. In 2008, Turkey and the GCC launched a High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council (HLSCC), which would provide the framework within which the relationship was to be conducted on a multilateral basis.1 For the GCC countries, this initiative was also significant because it indicated their willingness to see Turkey as a strategic partner. Later, an action plan was announced in 2010 to bolster bilateral relations in many fields, including commerce, investment, transportation, communications, agriculture, and energy. Following several Turkey-GCC foreign-ministerial meetings, Turkey took steps to deepen ties with individual Gulf countries.

However, these relationships faced some limitations. In economic terms, although there was an obvious improvement in the bilateral trade and investment figures compared to previous decades, this was not a drastic transformation in relative terms. This is due to the fact that Turkey’s foreign trade figures also rose overall in the same period. The trade increase with the Gulf remained a modest development, considering the expansion of Turkey’s trade with other countries. Moreover, considering the international capital investments of the Gulf countries in Western economies, the Gulf money flowing into Turkey amounted to only a small amount of the Gulf capital worldwide.

In political-strategic terms, too, the limitations preventing bilateral relations from turning into a solid strategic partnership became obvious in the last decade. While the two sides appeared to share some broad objectives, their positions increasingly started to diverge on regional issues, which later turned into direct confrontation. The single most important strategic development that drove a wedge between Turkey and some Gulf countries on the one hand, and among the Gulf countries themselves on the other was the Arab Spring and its geopolitical ramifications.

Divergence and confrontation after Arab Spring

Since the onset of the Arab Spring in late 2010, the Middle East has gone through a major transformation. The Arab uprisings in Egypt, Libya, Syria, and other countries have created turmoil in the region, whereby many regimes have been toppled and several countries have experienced internal conflict. At the initial stage of the uprisings, many experts argued that both sides have overlapping interests, enabling them to coordinate their policies. Indeed, there were expectations that Turkey and the Arab Gulf monarchies might develop common positions to address this challenge and help stabilize the region. Initially, for instance, Turkey coordinated its Syria policy with Saudi Arabia and other actors; however, soon it became clear that the points on which they were divided were much more salient. Eventually, the progress of Turkey’s relations with the GCC was halted, and Turkey developed differentiated relations with individual Gulf players. Ankara has experienced a growing rift with the major Gulf monarchies, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and to a limited extent Bahrain, developed rather neutral relations with others, and forged a strategic relationship with Qatar.

The impact of the Arab Spring on Turkey’s relations with the Gulf can be discussed in various perspectives:

a. The collapse of the regional: Arab order

One major implication of the Arab Spring was the weakening of the traditional centers of Arab regional order, namely Egypt, Iraq, and Syria. This created a geopolitical vacuum in which the Gulf Arab monarchies, especially Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, started to play larger roles. In fact, even before the Arab Spring, the Gulf countries had been on a path to use their wealth to support a proactive foreign policy agenda and shape regional affairs. This trend was strengthened after the Arab Spring. It also needs to be noted that the regional turmoil and weakening of the traditional Arab order facilitated Turkey’s growing involvement in Middle Eastern affairs. Initially, there appeared to be some coordination between Turkey and the Gulf countries. Later, the UAE and Saudi Arabia’s perceptions of competition with Turkey for regional leadership and the widening gap among the Gulf countries themselves triggered a major crisis.

b. Rise of regime security concerns: the beginning of the divergence

When the Arab Spring commenced, most regional countries experienced popular protests; this “democratic wave” also threatened the monarchies of the Gulf. However, except for Bahrain, Gulf monarchies did not experience violent popular uprisings. There were protests in Saudi Arabia and other monarchies, but they managed to avoid instability through controlled reforms and the distribution of economic benefits to their citizens. Nonetheless, ensuring regime survival has become a major concern for the monarchies. Moreover, a further issue arose when Gulf monarchies found themselves divided on how to react to the Arab revolution: while Qatar supported the popular uprisings, other Gulf monarchies adopted a conservative position and defended the old order. The bloc led by the UAE and Saudi Arabia felt particularly threatened by the Muslim Brotherhood’s role in region wide popular uprisings since they considered this version of political Islam as a direct threat to their own legitimacy. As a result, leaning on the authoritarian stability thesis, they supported the counter-revolutionary forces in other countries experiencing revolutions, which was reflected in the return of the old regime in Egypt after the coup in 2013.

In the same period, Turkey, together with Qatar, emerged as the main supporter of the revolutionary forces in the region. In essence, Turkey’s policy was seen as regime change. Although Turkey tried to justify its policy with reference to democratic principles, other Gulf countries believed it was driven by the ruling JDP’s ideological affinity with the Muslim Brotherhood, which led the Gulf countries to also interpret the JDP as another version of political Islam. Considering the rising popularity of Turkey among Arab societies, they started to view Turkey as a major threat to their own regime security.

c. The Gulf crisis and split within the GCC

Diverging interpretations of the Arab Spring, rising concerns for regime survival, and an increase in rivalry for regional leadership eventually resulted in splits between the Gulf countries. In 2014, there was the first spark of a crisis between Qatar on the one hand and the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain on the other. The latter group declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization and asked Qatar to cease its support. This crisis was later mediated: the so-called Quartet, – Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt – tried to isolate Qatar, while other GCC countries pursued a rather neutral policy. Subsequently, the crisis was reheated and reached its climax in 2017. The Quartet put forward a number of demands to Qatar, such as ending relations with Iran, halting security and defense ties with Turkey, including the closure of a nascent Turkish military base in the country, taking severe measures against the Muslim Brotherhood, and ending Al Jazeera’s broadcasting and funding to other media outlets. They imposed a blockade on Qatar after it refused to comply with these demands. Qatar resisted these pressures and did not step back. In addition to the worldwide support it received, Turkey and – to a limited extent – Iran’s support was very critical in Qatar’s resistance to the Quartet.

The Gulf crisis has produced several negative implications. First, the crisis has undermined the Gulf unity and the GCC has been paralyzed as the main forum for regional security. Secondly, the crisis enabled outside actors to gain deeper access into the Gulf, further widening and perpetuating the gap. Qatar managed to maintain its independent foreign policy line by consolidating partnerships with extra-regional actors, especially Turkey. Ankara moreover capitalized on the crisis and enhanced its relations with neutral countries, especially Oman and Kuwait. In short, the crisis was counter-productive for the Quartet. Thirdly, the crisis has spilled beyond the Gulf and has become entrenched within other regional conflicts. The two sides (Turkey/Qatar vs. Quartet) positioned themselves on opposite sides in other regional hotspots, ranging from Libya to the Horn of Africa or Syria, etc.

d. Rivalry for regional leadership and leadership of Islamic world

Since the UAE and Saudi Arabia tried to position themselves as the key actors in the new Middle East, they became sensitive to Turkey’s involvement in what they described as ‘intra-Arab’ or ‘Gulf’ affairs. Turkey’s involvement was somewhat sudden, and it had advanced a very ambitious foreign policy agenda. Therefore, these countries already had become suspicious of Turkey’s motivations even before the Arab Spring. Traditionally, together with Iran and Israel, Turkey had been the other major non-Arab actor in the Middle East, and it was not considered a major actor in Arab issues in general. However, Turkey became increasingly vocal in many disputes, ranging from the Iranian nuclear programme to Arab-Israeli conflict, internal conflict in Iraq, and Lebanese politics. At that time, Turkey mostly relied on economic instruments and soft power and preferred dialogue with the Gulf as mentioned before.

After the Arab Spring, however, perceptions of Turkey turned very negative. Turkey not only pursued a regime change policy in Syria but also increasingly started to use military instruments in its foreign policy. This development also intensified the UAE and Saudi Arabia’s concerns that Turkey might have aggressive intentions and that it was seeking to interfere with the domestic affairs of other countries and expand its influence in the Arab world. They saw it as a kind of neo-imperialist approach (neo-Ottomanism) and chose to designate Turkey as a destabilizing element. However, both the UAE and Saudi Arabia also started to rely on hard power, as was reflected in their crushing of the protests in Bahrain militarily and their intervention in Yemen.

Moreover, in recent decades, Turkey increasingly started to assert a leadership role in the Islamic world, by taking a very bold stand to advocate for Muslim causes. This policy ranged from defending the rights of the Palestinians to Rohingya Muslims, as well as an assertive campaign to open mosques in Africa and other places and to deliver humanitarian and development aid. Turkey also became a vocal critique of growing right-wing populism and Islamophobia in Western countries. Moreover, Turkey has been working to forge closer ties with other key Muslim countries such as Pakistan and Malaysia. These developments also contributed to the growing tensions, in particular with Saudi Arabia, which considered itself the natural leader of the (Sunni) Islamic world.

e. Divergence on critical issues from Turkey

Turkey found itself in opposition to the Gulf countries on several critical issues on the regional agenda. The Syrian civil war, the conflicts in Yemen and Libya, and the political transition in Tunisia all became platforms where their confrontation was played out. Two of them have been particularly relevant to highlight the extent of the disagreement between Ankara and these powers:

Iran’s nuclear program and regional ambitions: The question of how to respond to Iran’s regional policies has been a major point of divergence between Turkey and the Gulf countries even before the Arab Spring. The Iranian nuclear program and the disputes Iran had with the Arab countries made it the main security threat for several Gulf monarchies. They viewed Iran as exporting its own problems to the region and as the main source of instability. In that period, Gulf monarchies viewed Turkey as leverage and hoped that it would join them to counterbalance Iran. But, Turkish-Iranian relations had unique dynamics: Turkey overall pursued its own approach towards Iran and did not act in line with the expectations of the monarchies, engendering reactions from the Gulf.

Although the United States (US) policy of sanctions and later the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) deal restrained the risks from the Iranian nuclear program, after the Arab Spring Iran’s expansionist policies in the region alarmed the Gulf countries even further. They have come to view Iran as an existential threat, and they have worked to push Iran back. This has created a zero-sum relationship between the Gulf and Iran. Many observers even argued that the rivalry between Iran and the Gulf countries led by Saudi Arabia has become the main division line (a new Cold War) in the Middle East. This rivalry had roots in sectarian polarization as well as geopolitical competition, and the two sides worked to gain influence in the weak regional countries. Turkey also perceived security challenges from Iran’s policy after the Arab Spring, especially in Iraq and Syria. However, Turkey saw Iran only as a rival and challenger to its interests in the Middle East, not as an existential threat. Therefore, Turkey continued to resolve its disputes with Iran in its own way, which involved cooperation with it where necessary. Turkey did not offer unconditional support for the Gulf countries’ policy on Iran, because it viewed their aggressive rhetoric as counter-productive and polarizing.

The Palestine-Israel conflict: As part of their claims for leadership in regional and Islamic issues, both Turkey and Gulf countries sought to play a key role in the Palestine-Israel conflict. In principle, they both advocated the protection of the Palestinians’ rights, but in the last decade, their approaches differed substantially. Turkey chose to pursue a confrontational policy vis-à-vis Israel, which created a bilateral crisis between Ankara and Tel Aviv that still remains unresolved. In contrast, the Gulf monarchies have been searching for a new relationship with Israel in the light of the changing geopolitics of the region. Divisions among the Palestinians deepened Turkey-Gulf divisions further: while Turkey (and Qatar) supported mainly Hamas in Gaza, Gulf countries backed the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

A major driver of the Gulf-Israel rapprochement was their shared perspective on the Arab Spring, and willingness to work together towards containing the revolutions. Again, both sides shared similar views about Iran. Trump’s Middle East policies in general, and the Palestine-Israel conflict, in particular, pushed the two sides together even further. Following the August 2020 UAE-Israeli joint statement on normalization of diplomatic ties, almost a decade-long engagement at lower levels was moved to the formal level, which was later marked by the signing of the Abraham Accords. This development was related to several considerations, such as the desire to gain credit in Washington, as well as containing Iran and Turkey. Whatever their motivations, Turkey reacted strongly to this development, arguing that it undermined the Palestinian cause. This new regional reality added to the existing tensions between Turkey and the Gulf countries, as well as Israel.

A brief review of Turkey’s relations with some Gulf countries

a. Turkey-UAE relations

When Turkey started its campaign to deepen the ties with the GCC before the Arab Spring Turkish-UAE ties were, in fact, moving very fast. Economic relations took an upward turn; the UAE’s investments were flowing into Turkey, and the UAE even became a major buyer of Turkey’s defense industry exports.2

After the Arab Spring, the UAE has taken a most hostile attitude towards Turkey, due largely to the factors listed above. Interestingly, despite the deterioration of political-strategic relations, among the GCC countries, the UAE was Turkey’s number one trading partner, followed by Saudi Arabia. Leaving these positive economic indicators aside, political-strategic considerations poisoned Turkey-UAE relations. After the breakout of political tensions, the UAE cancelled some of its investment in Turkey. In particular, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Zayid en-Nahyan (MbZ) took a very aggressive position on Islamist groups – especially the Muslim Brotherhood – in his country and the region, and wanted to position the UAE as a major actor in regional affairs. This is arguably the main driver of the UAE’s hostile position towards Turkey.

The tensions became obvious by 2013. The UAE is believed to be behind the 2013 coup in Egypt against President Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, who was supported by Turkey and Qatar. During the Syrian crisis, the UAE initially refrained from involvement, but later started to support the Assad regime in opposition to Turkey’s policy of regime change. After 2014, the UAE also supported Khalifa Hafter’s campaign against the United Nations (UN)-recognized government, which was backed by Turkey. After 2015, the UAE got involved in the Yemen conflict. At the same time, Turkey deepened its relationship with Qatar, which made UAE attitude towards Turkey increasingly hostile.

Turkey-UAE relations deteriorated rapidly after the failed coup attempt of July 2016 in Turkey. Turkish official sources claimed that the UAE had financially supported the perpetrators of the coup attempt through some of its operatives. Turkey’s support for Qatar during the 2017 Gulf crisis took the UAE-Turkey tensions to a much higher level. It was even speculated that Turkey’s willingness to take military action was a major factor that prevented MbZ’s plans to invade Qatar. As a reaction, the UAE officials publicly attacked Turkey and went as far as claiming that Turkey was as dangerous as Iran and treating Turkey’s governing JDP as part of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Turkish government also openly attacked the UAE as an insincere, disruptive, and destabilizing actor.

The UAE also launched an information campaign to deliberately undermine Turkey’s soft power. The UAE-supported media outlets and think-tanks produced negative coverage of Turkey’s regional policies, as well as of its domestic developments. The leaked emails of the UAE ambassador to the United States had shown how they also tried to influence US think-tanks to create a negative view of Turkey. In that respect, the agenda of the UAE and Israel have converged. As MbZ was the main driver of the normalization with Israel, UAE-Turkey tensions reached new heights following the Abraham Accords, to which Turkey gave a  hostile reaction.

The UAE also tried to mobilize the Arab League to confront Turkey. When Turkey carried out military operations in Syria or Iraq, the UAE used the Arab League to condemn Turkish actions: it established diplomatic relations with the Assad regime and tried to convince other Arab League members to do the same. In Sudan and Somalia, too, the UAE confronted Turkey’s interests. Turkish sources even claimed that the UAE supported the terrorist Al-Shaabab’s attack against Turkish business interests and military bases in Somalia. There were even speculations that it supported the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terror organization in Iraq and Syria to undermine Turkey’s security.

Beyond confronting Turkey in Libya or Syria through proxies, the UAE recently got involved in the Greek-Turkish disputes in the East-Mediterranean and Aegean by dispatching some jets to Greece as part of military exercises, along with Israel. The UAE also deepened ties with the Greek Cypriot Administration. This development showed that the rivalry was not driven solely by ideological factors; rather, it has taken a perfectly geopolitical character.

b. Saudi Arabia

The Turkish-Saudi relationship had some unique characteristics, even though Saudi Arabia also pursued an adversarial policy similar to the UAE. Like the UAE, Saudi Arabia was concerned about Turkey’s growing role in the region, and it also took a hostile position towards Qatar. Nonetheless, Turkey initially attempted to differentiate between Abu Dhabi and Riyadh. Turkey trod a fine line, and avoided targeting Saudi Arabia directly, and instead blamed Abu Dhabi for most of the region’s disputes. Even after the first Gulf Crisis of 2014, Turkey continued to coordinate its regional policies with Saudi Arabia.

When King Salman acceded to the throne in 2015, the Turkish President sought to cultivate good ties with him. Turkey supported the Saudis during 2015-2016 against Iran in Syria and Iraq, and initially even in Yemen. When there were speculations about a Saudi initiative to form an Islamic Army, Turkey was said to support it. However, the new Middle East policy of President Trump after 2017 and the designation of Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) as the Crown Prince in 2017, which was followed by drastic changes in Saudi domestic and regional policies, eventually shattered Turkish-Saudi relations. Especially after the Qashoughi/Khashoggi incident in 2018,3 Turkey’s nuanced policy on Saudi Arabia lost ground, and Turkish-Saudi ties also experienced drastic deterioration. Nevertheless, Turkey maintained a distinction between King Salman, and the Crown Prince MbS: Turkey refrained from attacking the King, and instead treated MbS as the main culprit of the tensions.

Like the UAE, Saudi Arabia took a hostile position towards Turkey in regional disputes. It increasingly supported the anti-Turkish block in the Eastern Mediterranean by coordinating with Egypt and Greece. As an expression of information warfare, recently the Turkish press even speculated that the UAE and Saudi Arabi plan to support the PKK/the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD)/the People’s Protection Forces (YPG) in Syria and Iraq against Turkey. In 2020, both sides took further hostile steps against each other in the information sphere by placing a ban on newspapers or websites owned by the other country. Saudi investments into Turkey started to slow down, although some investments are still underway. Although the Turkish-Saudi trade volume remained larger than the Turkey-Qatar trade volume, in recent years that volume has also started to shrink. In the fall of 2020, there were calls in some Saudi circles to boycott Turkish products. Although no official boycott was imposed, in some regions and sectors there were initiatives to stop buying Turkish goods, albeit with limited effect.

c. Qatar

As part of its broader policy to deepen ties with the GCC, Turkey also developed good relations with Qatar. Unlike the other GCC countries, Qatar and Turkey had a much deeper convergence on political and strategic issues. Prior to the Arab Spring, they coordinated their policies and orchestrated some joint diplomatic initiatives on some of the regional dossiers, such as the Palestine issue or the crises in Lebanon. The new geopolitics of the region after the Arab Spring brought these two countries even closer, as both of them supported the Arab uprisings. This led to the argument that ideological affinity was the main driver of the Qatar-Turkey relationship. However, over time their relationship has moved in the direction of a strategic partnership and gained an economic dimension.

When the first round of the Gulf crisis between Qatar and the UAE and Saudi Arabia broke out in 2014, Turkey supported Qatar. After that development, Turkey and Qatar started to hold High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council meetings bilaterally (starting in 2015), after which they signed many agreements for cooperation in various fields. More importantly, they also started the process for military cooperation and laid the foundations for a Turkish military base in Qatar. Turkey’s export of military goods increased. At the same time, Qatar also took a pro-Turkey position within the Arab League. This happened, for instance, when the UAE tried to use the Arab League to criticize Turkey’s policies in Iraq and Syria.

During the 2017 crisis between Qatar and the Quartet, Turkey initially tried to mediate, but when the Quartet continued pressure, Turkey stood firmly behind Qatar. Turkey announced that it would not close down its base. Meanwhile, the Turkish Parliament ratified a military cooperation agreement, which led to the expansion of the Turkish military presence in Qatar, as well as to the holding of joint exercises and the offer of training to the Qatari military. Turkey established an air cargo route to help Qatar survive the blockade. Turkey’s support is believed to have been essential to Qatar’s withstanding the pressure.

Over time, the economic ties between Qatar and Turkey also started to deepen. Initially, Qatar was not a major economic partner for Turkey, despite good political-strategic ties. However, as a result of the new reality already mentioned, after 2015 the economic and financial ties between Turkey and Qatar started to increase visibly. In terms of trade volume, Turkish-Qatari trade is still lower compared to Turkey’s trade with the UAE and Saudi Arabia. The dramatic change took place in the financial sector. The share of Qatari Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) increased over time and Qatar became the number one source of Gulf FDI coming to Turkey (in 2015, Qatar accounted for 8.3 % of all Gulf FDI, while in 2019 it accounted for 70%). In terms of worldwide FDI flows into Turkey, Qatar rose to second place (in 2015, Qatar accounted for 0.5% of worldwide FDI flows, while in 2019 it accounted for 14.6%). Especially after the Turkish economy started to experience major crises in recent years (starting with the 2018 currency crisis), Qatar’s injection of money into the Turkish economy became a very critical factor. In 2018 and in 2020, Qatar established swap mechanisms with Turkey to deal with the currency crisis. Some experts claimed that this was also a political act by Qatar to support domestically its ally, the Turkish government.

The current standing of the relations in the wake of the normalization in the Gulf crisis

Currently, Turkey’s relationship with the GCC countries is in a period of transition. Following the election of Biden as the US President, the Quartet took steps towards the normalization of their relations with Qatar in late 2020. Similarly, Saudi Arabia – and to a limited extent UAE – signalled their willingness to normalize their relations with Turkey. Turkey has welcomed the end of the blockade of Qatar and sees the new era as a major window of opportunity to expand its ties with the region. Capitalizing on this new permissive environment, Turkey-Qatar strategic ties will be further deepened in the coming years. In respect of Saudi Arabia especially the chances for reducing the tensions remain high, considering the fact that there is some reaction within the Kingdom against MbS’ policies. Trade and investment ties are also likely to continue; Ankara and Riyadh have also taken some steps to reactivate political contacts. Nonetheless, it would be too early to expect a full political normalization between Turkey and the UAE and to some extent Saudi Arabia. These countries continue to support the anti-Turkey grouping in the East-Mediterranean by deepening ties with Greece and Cyprus. Although they may reduce their rhetoric against Turkey, one should not expect to see friendly relations emerge any time soon.

  1. HLSCC was a new mechanism Turkey pursued in those years to coordinate relations with certain key countries of interest through periodic intergovernmental summit meetings. Moreover, in the interim period, there would be ministerial and working group meetings. []
  2. Despite all the tensions now, Turkey still continues to sell some weapons to the UAE under the past agreements. []
  3. A Saudi dissident journalist who was assassinated on orders of MbS in the Saudi consulate, Istanbul. []

Şaban Kardaş

Professor Şaban Kardaş, TOBB University of Economics and Technology, Ankara

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