Diplomacy and Economy

Can Turkey’s Pivot to Gulf Save Its Flagging Economy?

The rapprochement with UAE and the ongoing rapport with Qatar would be too late, too little for Turkey’s looming economic crisis.

Abdullah Ayasun
6 min readDec 13, 2021

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President Erdogan (L) meets with Qatari Sheikh in Doha during a visit last week. (Photo Credit: Reuters)

In a desperate drive, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan launched a diplomatic charm offensive in Doha last week to deepen economic ties between Turkey and Qatar amid a teetering economy back at home. The trip came less than two weeks after the U.A.E. prince’s visit to Turkey (in late November) with a clear desire to mend ties that largely verged on the brink of a total break but somehow survived the tides of tension in varying degrees since the outset of Arab Spring. This was Turkey’s Gulf moment when Ankara’s relations with its NATO allies, the Western world at large, and its neighbors go through a considerable stress test due to conflicting interests and divergent views in vital regional disputes, not to speak of Turkey’s democratic conundrum in the domestic realm.

Following yearslong estrangement without fully severing diplomatic ties, Turkey and U.A.E. eventually chose to bury the hatchet. The tiny Gulf country was long ostracized by the Turkish media after Ankara pegged the Emirati leadership as the chief financial sponsor of the coup plotters in 2016 in its official coup narrative. Ankara’s diplomatic tantrums against the Gulf country hardened earlier this year after a Turkish mob boss (Sedat Peker) took refuge somewhere in Dubai where he released damning revelations of corruption among the ranks of power holders, to the chagrin of Turkey’s leadership. But the nagging economic predicament that is sinking the government’s popularity in Turkey forced President Erdogan to forgo his rhetorical crusade against the Emirati and cast aside the unheeded demand of Peker’s extradition from Dubai, at least for the moment.

According to Hasim Tekines, a former diplomat who worked in the Gulf region and who periodically pens articles about regional politics, a number of dynamics paved the way for the recent shift in bilateral ties.

After the outbreak of Arab Spring, Turkey and the U.A.E. found themselves on opposite ends of the regional divide, backing rival parties in conflicts ranging…

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Abdullah Ayasun

Boston-based journalist and writer. Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. 2023 WHCA Scholar. On art, culture, politics and everything in between. X: @abyasun