Mohammed Fahad Al-Harthi
Turkey laid out the red carpet for Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman on his official state visit, indicative of the importance talks between the two nations’ leaders had for peace, security and mutual economic benefit. This precedes the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit in Istanbul and comes after King Salman’s crucial visit to Egypt, which resulted in the two old allies cementing political, military and trade tries.
Turkey and Saudi Arabia need each other to ensure stability across the region, reflecting the situation in the Gulf states. On the economic front, Ankara is looking for access to strategic markets, and to benefit from investments and tourism, not only from the Kingdom but also other regional economies. From the Kingdom’s point of view, Turkey is a major power in the region that does not have neo-imperialist ambitions. Like Saudi Arabia, it is a country prioritizing the security of its own and other peoples, and seeking peace with everyone. This common approach will make it easier for the two countries to formulate a workable joint political strategy. For example, it is already clear that Turkey is increasingly anxious and dissatisfied with Iran’s interference in Arab countries. Many Turks believe Iran is the common denominator in the region’s problems. As part of King Salman’s delegation, this newspaper participated in discussions held in Istanbul at a Turkish think-tank, the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research, where Turkish intellectuals expressed their concerns about Iran’s belligerence.
Muheddin Ataman, deputy general manager of the center, said that it was vital for Turkey and Saudi Arabia to form a solid alliance that would counter Iran’s maneuvers in the region, which he argued had escalated problems in Syria. There is little doubt that Turkey has political and geographical importance, as expressed in its good relations with the United States and the European Union, and the membership of NATO, the European Council and the G-20. Saudi Arabia, with its new foreign policy of building relations and partnerships with countries across the world, is putting aside disagreements in order to develop a solid relationship with Ankara.
There is somewhat of a divergence of views on Egypt, but there are many voices in the Turkish Parliament raising calls for a Riyadh-Cairo-Ankara axis. This is a realistic approach because it takes into account the diminishing role internationally of the United States, and the complications caused by Tehran’s attempt to exploit this situation. Many people are betting that the decision to establish the Saudi-Turkish Coordination Council will have a positive outcome for mutual benefit, particularly after the success of the Egyptian-Saudi Coordination Council that was able to solve myriad problems and implement major projects in less than eight months.
Turkey has already been working with Riyadh by supporting Operation Decisive Storm in Yemen, and took part in the Saudi-led Islamic alliance against terrorism. It has also stated categorically that Iran has become more aggressive after signing a nuclear deal with the United States.
Khalil Ozcan, a Turkish parliamentarian and head of the Turkish-Saudi Association, who is also a graduate of King Saud university, said that Ankara sees the Kingdom as a trusted strategic partner, with which it has more in common than Iran. Turks also have a special place in their hearts for the Kingdom because it hosts Islam’s holiest sites, he said. This attempt for more harmonious relations with Turkey is being made at the highest possible level. The royal visit sends a message to everyone that the Kingdom is seeking stability and peace based on a policy of openness, partnerships and the prioritization of economic benefits over politics.
— Courtesy Arab News