Turkey deepened its cooperation with Qatar throughout the blockade imposed by the Arab quartet in 2017, when the tiny emirate was most weak and extremely reliant on outdoors help for meals provides and safety in opposition to perceived threats from its neighbors in addition to the specter of an inner coup. Provided that restoring diplomatic ties introduced earlier this month with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the opening of borders and airspace will make Qatar much less depending on Turkey, it’d seem stunning that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan welcomed the settlement and expects advantages for Turkey and the Gulf states.
Navigating the Minefield of Arab Politics
The present “solidarity and stability” deal between Qatar and the GCC plus Egypt makes no point out of the 13 calls for of 2017, which included closing the Turkish army base and halting army cooperation with Ankara. Whereas full clarification of the deal’s phrases and influence should wait, it clearly doesn’t resolve all the issues between Qatar and its Gulf neighbors. There are challenges forward, with three believable penalties for Turkey.
First is the continuation of the established order, the place relations between Qatar and Turkey keep it up largely unchanged. Though Doha’s relations with Riyadh enhance, the rivalry between the United Arab Emirates and Egypt stays, and Qatar is not going to essentially change its international coverage. Saudi Arabia and its Arab quartet allies — the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt — can not obtain with carrots what they failed to perform with sticks.
Continuation of the established order wouldn’t, nonetheless, make Qatar Turkey’s unconditional ally; Ankara by no means had absolute affect over Doha. Whereas Qatar did refuse to endorse an Arab League condemnation of Turkish army operations in Syria and Iraq in 2016, it selected to not block a later communique reflecting the identical sentiment. Qatar Petroleum additionally joined ExxonMobil in signing exploration and production-sharing contracts with Cyprus in 2017, which contradicts Turkey’s Jap Mediterranean coverage. On this situation, Turkey’s proactive, militaristic international coverage will proceed unchanged, from Syria to Libya. However Ankara might want to spend extra effort on sustaining its relationship with a extra impartial Qatar.
The second situation is regional isolation. If Turkey loses its affect over Qatar because the latter’s relations with its neighbors revive, this may go away Ankara additional remoted within the area. The Arab quartet had hoped that blockading Qatar would draw Doha away from Turkish and Iranian affect and squash its impartial international coverage. The plan failed and introduced in regards to the reverse impact: Qatar elevated its cooperation with Turkey and deepened its ties with Iran.
Following reconciliation, Saudi Arabia and its allies would possibly pursue a extra reasonable, restricted set of targets resembling curbing somewhat than eradicating Turkish presence and affect in Qatar. This method has a greater likelihood of attaining outcomes and can be a problem to Turkey. Following the GCC summit, UAE International Minister Anwar Gargash stated that some points would take longer to repair than others: “One of many huge issues would be the geostrategic dimensions, how will we see regional threats, how will we see the Turkish presence? Is Turkey’s presence within the Gulf going to be everlasting?”
Lastly, there may be the choice of reconciliation with the Gulf area. Turkey’s disputes with Saudi Arabia and the UAE didn’t begin with the Qatar blockade and won’t finish with its lifting. Nevertheless, by agreeing to finish the blockade with out asking Qatar to concede any of their authentic major calls for, Saudi Arabia and its allies have acknowledged a brand new energy stability within the Gulf. That may give Qatar the leverage to mediate between Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Turkey would then profit from the thaw.
Separate reconciliation processes are already underway between Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Egypt. In accordance to Mithat Rende, former Turkish ambassador to Qatar, similtaneously communication was reestablished between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, one other channel was opened between Istanbul and Riyadh. Ankara has additionally engaged in backdoor diplomacy and intelligence cooperation with Israel and Egypt.
There might be no reconciliation with out an settlement to hunt widespread floor relating to geostrategic approaches within the area. The worth for Ankara might be to average its approaches throughout the Arab world and exercising restraint in Libya, Syria and Iraq. The truth that the Saudis are at present extra targeted on potential threats from Iran somewhat than on Turkish intervention within the Center East offers a promising context for negotiations. Reconciliation between Turkey and Saudi Arabia would additionally constrain the Emiratis and the Egyptians, for whom stopping Turkey’s actions is extra pressing than Qatar downgrading its ties with Iran.
Turkish-Saudi efforts to discover a compromise could obtain a lift from Qatar. In Doha, Turkey now has a well-connected ally within the Gulf that might serve Ankara’s ends, that are additionally in its personal pursuits. Though it’s unlikely that Ankara will change its geostrategic route in an effort to acquire friendlier relations with the Gulf states, it’s going to nonetheless profit from Doha restoring relations with Riyadh and its allies.
To make use of an analogy from battle, the GCC deal is a truce somewhat than a peace settlement. And it’s nonetheless work in progress. If rapprochement inside the GCC facilitates reconciliation with Turkey, this might result in a broader course of probably together with Israel, which is itself in a parallel technique of normalizing relations with Arab nations resembling Bahrain, the UAE, Sudan and Morocco. If, then again, the GCC and Egypt handle to progressively detach Qatar from Turkey, this may have unfavourable repercussions for Turkey’s militaristic insurance policies in Syria and Libya, not less than financially — as Qatar funds Turkey’s companions and proxies — and politically.
Larger regional isolation and reconciliation with the Gulf would each constrain Turkey’s actions in conflicts resembling Syria and Libya. European engagement, within the type of stress on all sides to realize decision, can be helpful. By contributing to stability within the area such efforts may ameliorate the related safety and migration challenges.
*[This article was initially revealed by the German Institute for Worldwide and Safety Affairs (SWP), which advises the German authorities and Bundestag on all questions associated to international and safety coverage.]
The views expressed on this article are the creator’s personal and don’t essentially mirror Truthful Observer’s editorial coverage.