Qatar, Turkey take bold step for strategic cooperation
DHA photoQatar and Turkey, whose bilateral and regional cooperation has become remarkably more visible in recent years, have taken yet another assertive step to deepen their bilateral relations, signing a series of agreements in Ankara, including a joint memorandum to found a “Supreme Strategic Committee.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, speaking at a joint press conference on Dec. 19 following talks with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, who was paying a working visit to Ankara, underlined the "positive steps" taken between the two during his term in office as prime minister and as president.
“Turkey and Qatar have never drifted apart. We have always been together, we have always been in solidarity and we have always designated standing by the oppressed people of the world as our common denominator. From now on, we will again continue our resolve in the same way,” Erdoğan said.
The host president said the two discussed affairs surrounding Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Libya, Tunisia and Cyprus, vowing that their bilateral endeavors regarding these affairs would "continue with determination."
Ahead of the press conference, in the presence of the emir and the president, Turkish Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz and Qatari Defense Minister Maj.-Gen. Hamad bin Ali al-Attiyah signed an agreement on military cooperation.
In a show of the significance of the move, the joint memorandum to found a “Supreme Strategic Committee” between the two countries was signed by the emir and Erdoğan.
Qatar and Turkey have long been on the same page in regards to regional issues, particularly on Egypt and Syria. Known as strong supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood movement in the region, the two have each given sanctuary to Egyptian members of the Brotherhood after they were ousted from power in 2013.
However, the two countries’ support for the Brotherhood has strained their ties with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
After being elected as president in a popular vote in late August, Erdoğan, in line with the country’s state customs, paid his first bilateral official visits to northern Cyprus and Azerbaijan. In a sign of the importance he attaches to relations with the petroleum-rich Persian Gulf monarchy, Erdoğan paid his third official bilateral visit to Qatar as early as September.
Particularly after al-Thani came to power in June 2013, Qatar has significantly fine-tuned its foreign policy, in line with various recent developments in the region.
As recently as Dec. 9, Qatar joined its neighbors at a summit of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states in supporting Egypt under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, whose crackdown on the Doha-backed Muslim Brotherhood divided the Gulf monarchies for months.
Nonetheless, so far, Turkey has stuck to its uncompromising policy vis-à-vis the el-Sisi regime, which it labels “the coup makers in Cairo,” in contrast to the friendlier policies of other actors in the Middle East, including the Gulf states.
Top intelligence chief in protocol line
Notably, Turkey’s top intelligence official was seen as part of the delegation who welcomed the emir upon his arrival at Esenboğa Airport late on Dec. 18.
In line with state customs and protocol, a member of the Council of Ministers, Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek, greeted the emir at the airport. However, it was one of the first ever occasions in which National Intelligence Organization (MİT) Undersecretary Hakan Fidan was also with Şimşek at the airport. Furthermore, it was Fidan, not Şimşek, who accompanied the emir in his vehicle on his way to his hotel.
Fidan was among the delegation that welcomed the emir on Dec. 19 at the presidential palace along with President Erdoğan and members of the Cabinet.
Although it was rare with regard to his presence in the protocol, Fidan’s visibility in foreign affairs is not new.
In May 2013, a key a working dinner at the White House between U.S. President Barack Obama and then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, saw the participation of Fidan and Obama’s then-national security adviser, Thomas Donilon, along with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his then-counterpart, Ahmet Davutoğlu.
Meanwhile, the Qatari emir held a meeting with Prime Minister Davutoğlu, as the latter visited the former for a closed-door meeting at his hotel in Ankara late on Dec. 19.