In mid-July, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ended his three-day tour of the Gulf. While his visits to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates were primarily economic in nature—the Turkish leader secured a series of investment agreements intended to restore his country’s economy and control inflation—signs of warmer political ties between Ankara and the GCC were also noticeable. Erdogan’s tour marked the most recent attempt to turn the page on the tensions that shadowed GCC-Turkish relations until 2021, largely as a consequence of geopolitical rivalry and Turkey’s support for Qatar during the 2017-2021 GCC crisis.
Over the last two years, and for reasons related to location and energy exports, both Turkey and the GCC states have gained influence in global affairs, due in large part to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the intensifying great power competition. The increasing importance of Turkish defense exports and capabilities—and their demonstrated battlefield effectiveness in Ukraine—were a factor that helped Ankara, Abu Dhabi, and Riyadh to put their differences aside. During Erdogan’s visit, Saudi Arabia signed an agreement to purchase Turkish Bayraktar drones and other military equipment, providing Turkey with a much-needed financial lifeline to wealthy customers in the Gulf.
What issues brought the GCC states and Turkey closer? How have recent elections in Turkey affected Ankara’s broader relationship with the Gulf? How has the war on Ukraine impacted the two sides? In what ways has the recent Iranian-Saudi rapprochement played a role in a closer GCC-Turkish relations?
Featured speakers: Sinem Cengiz, Dr. Tarek Cherkaoui, Dr. Betul Dogan-Akkas, Dr. Murat Yesiltas, and Dr. Abdulla Baabood.
Research Assistant, Gulf Studies Center of Qatar University; Non-Resident Fellow, Gulf International Forum
Sinem Cengiz is a Research Assistant at Gulf Studies Center of Qatar University and Non-Resident Fellow at Gulf International Forum. She is a Turkish researcher with a focus on Gulf affairs, and Turkey’s relations with the broader Middle East. She is a regular columnist for Arab News and the author of the book “Turkish-Saudi relations: Cooperation and Competition in the Middle East.” Sinem is born and raised in Kuwait and currently based in Doha.
Dr. Abdullah Baabood
Member of the Board of Directors, Gulf International Forum; Chair of the State of Qatar for Islamic Area Studies and a visiting professor at the Faculty of International Research and Education, Waseda University, Tokyo-Japan
Dr. Abdullah Baabood is a member of Board of Directors. He is an academic from Oman who currently holding the Chair of the State of Qatar for Islamic Area Studies and a visiting professor at the Faculty of International Research and Education, Waseda University, Tokyo-Japan. Abdullah taught at different universities and institutions in Europe and the Gulf, and was a visiting professor at the Middle Institute, National University of Singapore and the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Hamad Bin Khalifa University, Qatar. He has previously held the positions of the Director of the Gulf Studies Center at Qatar University and the Director of the Gulf Research Center at the University of Cambridge, UK. Abdullah’s teaching and research interest focuses on international relations, international political economy, especially on globalization and regionalism. His area focus is on the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) economic, social and political development and their external relations. He has published widely and is frequently invited to speak on international conferences and seminars as well media programs.
Dr. Tarek Cherkaoui
Manager, TRT World Research Centre
Dr. Tarek Cherkaoui is Manager at TRT World Research Centre. Dr. Cherkaoui has an extensive experience in strategic management, research, and consultancy across international media, tertiary education, and the creative industries throughout the U.K., Qatar, Malaysia, and New Zealand. He is an expert in international media and strategic communications, and holds a Ph.D. in Media and Communication Studies from the Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand, for which he was awarded the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Postgraduate Studies. His research interests include international broadcasting, media discourse, international news framing, information warfare, public diplomacy, soft power, nation branding, image management, crisis communication, and political and military affairs – specifically within the MENA region. He has put forward several publications, including The News Media at War: The Clash of Western and Arab Networks in the Middle East (2017) (London: I.B. Tauris). As an academic, strategic communications researcher, and a senior manager within organizations, Dr. Cherkaoui displays excellent interpersonal and communication skills with fluency in four languages – English, French, Arabic, and German.
Dr. Murat Yesiltas
Director of Foreign Policy Studies, SETA
Dr. Murat Yesiltas is the Director of Foreign Policy Studies at Seta. Dr. Yeşiltaş worked as a visiting researcher in the European Studies and International Policy departments of Lancaster University between 2008-2009, and as a visiting professor at the Virginia Technical State University Institute of Government and International Relations between 2010-2011. He is still working as a Professor in the Department of International Relations at Ankara Social Sciences University and gives undergraduate and graduate courses on Turkey’s International Security, Foreign Policy Analysis and Terrorism. He completed his undergraduate and graduate studies at Sakarya University, Department of International Relations in 2003 and 2009, respectively. He received his doctorate from Marmara University, Department of Political Science and International Relations with his doctoral thesis titled “Positioning Turkey: The Geopolitical Mentality and the Army in Turkey” in 2012.
Dr. Betul Dogan-Akkas
Researcher, Durham University and Qatar University
Dr. Betul Dogan-Akkas is a researcher of the Arab Gulf States. She holds a joint PhD in Gulf Studies from Durham University and Qatar University. She received her MA degree with the thesis titled “Securitization of Qatari Foreign Policy” at Qatar University. Dogan Akkas completed her BA in International Relations at Bilkent University. She is also a co-convenor of the BISA Working Group International Studies of the Mediterranean, Middle East and Asia. In her research, she examines foreign policy, security strategies, and political culture in the GCC states. Dogan-Akkas also covers the involvement of the GCC states in the Yemen war and Turkiye-GCC relations.