Turkey is determined to follow its foreign strategy and support Qatar regardless of the displeasure voiced by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a Turkish political scientist told Sputnik, while his UAE counterpart warned Ankara against jeopardizing relations with the Gulf kingdoms.
Relations between Turkey and the Persian Gulf countries are strained as never before, Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, an academic specializing in political science at the United Arab Emirates University, told Sputnik Arabic.
“[Turkey] intervened in today’s conflict in the Persian Gulf,” Abdulla said. “Ankara took the side of one country [Qatar] at the political and military level, thus jeopardizing relations with the others. First of all, we are talking about Saudi Arabia.”
On March 10, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Mohammed Gargash criticized Turkey’s policy towards the countries of the region.
“It is no secret that Arab-Turkish relations aren’t in their best state,” he tweeted. “In order to return to balance, Ankara has to respect Arab sovereignty and deal with its neighbors with wisdom and rationality.”
The Gulf monarchies are dissatisfied with Ankara’s support for Qatar. When Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt imposed sanctions on Doha in 2017 over its alleged collaboration with Islamist extremists, Turkey immediately offered its helping hand to Qatari Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani.
“If we analyze similar cases in the past, I think that this time Turkey will again respond to the statement of the UAE minister. Furthermore, it will answer both in the media and at the diplomatic level,” Abdulla suggested.
The academic believes that Turkish-Arab relations “will not improve in the near future”: “While Turkey is supporting Qatar, relations with the rest of the Persian Gulf states and other Arab countries will not become better.”
According to Abdulla, Turkey is interested in the escalation of tensions in the region. He assumed that Ankara is seeking to take part of Syria under its control.
In addition, under these circumstances, tourists prefer Turkey to the troubled countries of the region, the academic noted.
UAE Unlikely to Enter Into Conflict With Turkey
For his part, Ahmed Uweisal, a lecturer of political science and sociology at the University of Istanbul, opined that in reality the Gulf countries’ statements, in particular the latest remark from the UAE, “do not play a big role in the Middle Eastern politics.”
“Often Western political figures speak through the lips of these [Middle Eastern] politicians,” he noted, adding that Western countries do not really care about the resolution of conflicts in the region, as they are pursuing their own interests, just like their ally, Israel.
Uweisal stressed that Ankara will continue to conduct its policy in the Middle East, including its “anti-terrorist operation in Afrin,” which it kick-started in January 2018.
“So, the statement of the UAE Minister [of State for Foreign Affairs Gargash] will not change anything,” the political scientist underscored.
According to the Turkish academic, “the tension between the UAE and Turkey will not go beyond the information field, because the UAE has nothing but the media.”
“They do not have real forces to enter into conflict with Turkey,” Uweisal pointed out. “One should understand that the UAE does not speak for itself. The wind blows from Israel and other countries, which are not interested in peace and security [in the region].”
He added that Turkey continues to maintain “good relations” with the Persian Gulf countries, except the UAE.
Turkey offered increased support to Doha in June 2017 when Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates abruptly severed diplomatic relations with Qatar accusing it of supporting terrorism and imposing sanctions on the Gulf state. The same month a group of Turkish servicemen arrived at a base in southern Doha in accordance with an agreement signed between the countries in 2014.
The Turkish military held their first drills at the Tariq bin Ziyad military base in August 2017. It was reported that Ankara deployed yet another group of its troops to Qatar’s Al Udeid Air Base later in December. In February 2018, Turkey’s ambassador to Doha Fikret Ozer refuted the claims that Ankara sought to send additional military forces to Qatar.