Saudi Arabia turns to Turkey

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan (R) shakes hands with Saudi King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud during a luncheon ahead of the G-20 summit in Belek, Turkey, Nov. 14, 2015. (photo by REUTERS/Kayhan Ozer)


Saudi Arabia and Turkey have agreed to form a Strategic Cooperation Council to coordinate and develop relations between the countries in terms of economic, political, defense, security, education and health issues. The countries also are discussing military cooperation, especially with regard to Syria.

The custodian of the two holy mosques, Saudi King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, received Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu at his palace in Riyadh during the prime minister’s official visit Jan. 31.

The high-level Turkish delegation Davutoglu headed included Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Economy Minister Mustafa Elitas, Interior Minister Efkan Ala, Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz, Minister of Transport, Maritime and Communication Minister Binali Yildirim and the chief of the General Staff of the Turkish Armed Forces, Gen. Hulusi Akar.

Following the meeting between the Saudi king and Davutoglu, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir and his Turkish counterpart announced that officials had agreed to implement the Strategic Cooperation Council.

“We will sign [the agreement] in the future and appoint two joint presidents for the council,” Jubeir said. The meeting followed up on discussions in December, when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Saudi Arabia.

These developments reflect the interest of Saudi Arabia in establishing a strategic partnership with Turkey, which has shown the initiative to achieve a greater understanding with Riyadh on several political issues with regard to Yemen and Syria. Turkey also agreed to join the military anti-terrorism Islamic coalition declared by the Saudi minister of defense in December.

Conversely, the government of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi did not offer the support Riyadh sought in several political and military stances with regard to Syria, Yemen or Iraq; observers said this reflects Egypt’s ingratitude for the kingdom’s support of the Egyptian economy in terms of funds and oil. Saudi Arabia provided more than $8 billion worth of aid to Egypt in 2013 and 2014.

It seems that the Turks are more willing and able — albeit not by receiving any direct financial aid from Saudi Arabia — to show solidarity with the Saudis, starting with Erdogan, who made a scathing criticism of Iran, accusing it of executing a large number of people, during his speech in January against the backdrop of the attacks on the Saudi Embassy in Tehran. Erdogan previously accused Iran of seeking to dominate the region in an interview with France 24 in March 2015, declaring his support for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen.

Turkey seeks, through its new cooperation with Riyadh, to increase Saudi investment in Turkey, which currently amounts to about $2 billion — namely in real estate and other activities such as industry, tourism and energy — to $25 billion by 2023.

Ankara also seeks to obtain a bigger share of development projects in Saudi Arabia to the benefit of 200 Turkish companies operating in the field of construction and contracting, whose investments reached $1 billion during 2015.

Saudi Arabia is anxiously looking at Iran’s growing power and influence in the Arab region following the relief of international sanctions by Europe, the United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency, not to mention lifting the ban on its oil exports, which allowed it to restore half of its frozen assets abroad, amounting to $100 billion.

In this context, Riyadh is turning toward Sunni-dominated Ankara, considering that the close economic, security and military ties have become a strategic need to protect the security of the Gulf and reduce the risk of Iranian influence in the smoldering Arab areas such as Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

Full article: Saudi Arabia turns to Turkey (Al Monitor)

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