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GCC-Turkish Relations in a New Era

Featured speakers: Sinem Cengiz, Dr. Tarek Cherkaoui, Dr. Betul Dogan-Akkas, Dr. Murat Yesiltas, and Dr. Abdulla Baabood.


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?

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