GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

Family Name:
Tur Han
First Name:
Title of Paper:
Turkey and the Gulf: An Evolving Economic and Political Partnership
Paper Proposal Text :
After decades of conflict, Turkey’s relations with the Middle East have been on the rise since the late 1990s. Especially following the coming to power of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in 2002, relations have developed in political, economic and cultural aspects. The Gulf region constitutes a special place in this context. Since September 2008, Turkey has signed a series of agreements with the Gulf countries to increase the strategic partnership and bilateral agreements were concluded with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar to further increase economic relations - mainly the investments. Turkey, as an energy-dependent country has been concerned with the oil imports from the region while seeing the Gulf as an important market for its own products (especially agricultural products, iron and steel). While tourism has increased between Turkey and the countries of the region in the last years which expanded the interaction at the societal level, there are also many Turkish citizens living in the Gulf countries – for example 115 thousand in Saudi Arabia, 70 thousand of which is currently employed there working in construction, automotive industry and the agriculture sector. Many writers in Turkey see the increasing economic activity with the region as a sign of Turkey becoming a “trading state” (to use Rosecrance’s terminology). Political relations with the region have also increased, leading many observers to see it as a part of AKP’s ideological (Islamic) orientation and Turkey’s role against the rising influence of Iran. This papers aims to analyse Turkey’s growing ties with the Gulf countries, all eight of them, and will argue that Turkey is mainly looking at this relationship instrumentally - to help alleviate its dependence on Russia for oil, find new markets for its growing economic power and the ambitions of its rising conservative (Islamic) bourgeoisie, and to find support for its ‘model’ in the Middle East at large. After looking in details to the economic relations and opportunities and challenges in the region for Turkey, the second part of the paper will look at the political relations. Especially after the events resulting with the leadership change in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, Turkey began to seek a politically deepened relationship with the Gulf countries, underlining its model for the region. This paper will look at this debate by discussing how such a claim is received in the Gulf and the arguments for and against an enhanced role for Turkey in the region. The paper will be based on interviews especially with policy-makers and economic actors.