An Important Step Towards Deepening Gulf-Turkish Relations

  • 3 September 2008

GCC Foreign Ministers and the Foreign Minister of Turkey, Ali Babacan, signed Tuesday a Memorandum of Understanding about cooperation in economic, political, and security matters. The signing, which took place at the GCC Foreign Ministers' meeting in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, is an important step toward deepening relations between Gulf countries and Turkey and one that has many significant meanings. First, it showed the parties' desire to strengthen economic and trade relations in the coming period. The Turkish market is considerable and can use large investments from the Gulf which is looking for opportunities abroad. The Turkish economic attaché in the UAE had spoken of his country's plans for boosting trade with the Gulf countries and had announced his government's program of incentives for foreign investment, particularly that from the Gulf. The Turkish government is also interested in establishing a free zone area with the Gulf akin to the agreement Ankara signed with the European Union.

Second, the signing signifies a deepening of historical, social, and cultural relations between Turkey and GCC countries. The governing Turkish Justice and Development party is keen to increase such relations through understanding and dialogue and has been able to conduct its regional affairs with obvious skill and diplomacy. Its openness towards Israel has not affected its relations with the Arab world and the Turkish mediation between Syria and Israel is a clear example.

Third, the signing relates to Turkey's positive position in the area. According to GCC Secretary General Abdel-Rahman al-`Atiyya, Turkey has been balanced and moderate, in addition to being active and involved in many crises in the Middle East. Turkey is active in resolving the Iranian nuclear program crisis, in Iraq, when Prime Minister Racep Tayyib Erdogan visited Baghdad to augment relations, and in the Syrian-Israeli peace process.

Undoubtedly, Turkey's relations with East and West give its diplomacy great leeway in maneuvering between different issues and help it address them. Its cooperative and moderate orientation provides a suitable environment for strong and developed relations with GCC countries, especially that Turkey has a great interest in strengthening them.