No sign of increased Qatari aid to Turkey

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ended a trip to Qatar on Tuesday with no major deals announced nor any indication that Doha would boost direct financial assistance to his country as it grapples with a historic currency crash and soaring inflation.

President Erdoğan and Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani signed 15 agreements in areas ranging from media to disaster management and vaguely pledged to "explore more ways" to boost economic ties and coordination, a statement said.

Erdoğan also sent thinly-veiled messages wooing Saudi Arabia, which had not shown any inclination to respond. Leaks of a possible meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during a concomitant visit to Doha proved untrue.

At variance from his stance during previous visits to Qatar, Erdoğan played it humble this time, speaking at length about Doha's support for his country, especially during its financial crisis, in a hint at Turkish need for urgent Qatari help, which did not materialise for unknown reasons.

In the presence of the emir of Qatar, the Turkish leader said that Doha has stood by Turkey in the banking turmoil which had shaken the Turkish economy.

"We do not separate the security and stability of Qatar from that of our own country," Erdoğan said in a speech, mentioning Doha's contributions to "Turkey's investment, employment, production and export-oriented growth."

President Erdoğan noted that Qatar had deep religious, historical, cultural and human ties with Turkey and held "a special place in the hearts of the Turkish people".

Before Erdoğan's visit, Turkey tried to pre-empt the likely Qatari reluctance to give Ankara financial support. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Monday that his country did not intend to request financial aid from Qatar.

The words of the Turkish foreign minister did not prevent the question of Qatari funds from taking centre stage in the meeting of the governor of the Qatari Central Bank with his Turkish counterpart.

The Qatar News Agency reported that the two officials discussed bilateral relations in the financial and banking fields and ways to enhance them.

A joint statement said that Turkey and Qatar had decided to extend the currency swap agreement between their two central banks.

According to official announcements, the signed agreements between Doha and Ankara were related to traditional fields of cooperation and no specific agreements were mentioned in the financial or military fields, as was the case in previous visits.

The agreements covered areas such as disaster and emergency management, health and medical sciences, religious affairs and coordination against Islamophobia as well as media.

Analysts said that Qatar, which had previously concluded major agreements with Turkey, could no longer commit itself to agreements of the same scope, especially in the military and investment fields, despite the Turkish ally's desperate need now for greater support.

The Turkish president has imposed his own economic logic at home by insisting on reducing interest rates instead of raising them, which led to the Turkish lira plunging to a level that the Turkish economy can no longer bear.

During the visit, the Turkish president seemed eager to open new channels with other Gulf nations, especially Saudi Arabia, which has remained silent over his previous messages. Through insistence on common ties with the Gulf countries, he gave the impression of specifically wooing Riyadh.

While visiting the Turkish-Qatari military base in Doha, Erdoğan said that all the peoples of the Gulf are "true brothers" of Turkey, regardless of their origins, sects or beliefs. "We would absolutely not like to see tensions, conflicts and animosities in this region," he added.

"We want this region, which enjoys great potential, both in terms of underground resources and in terms of trade, to develop in all fields and to grow stronger and have solidarity and brotherhood," he said.

"We are working to develop our cooperation with the Gulf countries on the basis of respect and mutual interest," he added.

Gulf affairs experts believe that the Turkish president’s focus on the common bonds between his country and the Gulf countries barely hid his disappointment about his failure to reach out to Saudi Arabia, especially that the “coincidence meeting” for which he was apparently hoping with the Saudi crown prince in Doha did not come through.

Before engaging Turkey, experts say, Saudi leaders expect Ankara to fully review its contentious policies, which have for years put Riyadh and Ankara on divergent paths.

(A version of this article was originally published by the Arab Weekly and is reproduced by permission.)

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