After PM sacking, Qatar continues courting Ankara
LONDON - Qatari Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani travelled to Turkey, the first visit of its kind since the dismissal of Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al-Thani as prime minister.
Sheikh Mohammed met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu during the February 4 visit. The trip was reportedly intended to solidify the relationship that links Doha to Ankara.
The frequency of Qatari-Turkish contacts reflects an expansion of relations between the two countries, including their support for extremist movements.
There is reportedly fear among Qataris, including members of the ruling al-Thani family, that the country will withdraw further Arab connections and become increasingly involved in an unequal relationship with Turkey, which could turn Qatar into a tool for Erdogan’s expansionary projects.
Ties between Qatar and Turkey surpass traditional economic and political relations and could allow Ankara access to Qatar’s wealth, which would compromise Qatari security because of the presence of Turkish troops in its country.
The Qatar-Turkey military relationship claimed a causality in the political sense with the replacement of Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser al-Thani.
Although publicly the cabinet reshuffle appeared to be a smooth transition, a report by Qatar Leaks, an activist-run news site that focuses on the Qatari government, said Sheikh Abdullah was dismissed because of disagreements with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani regarding Qatari foreign policy, particularly relations with Iran, and Sheikh Tamim’s plans to increase Turkish military bases in Doha.
Sheikh Abdullah’s successor, Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz al-Thani, is known as a confidant of Sheikh Tamim and was described by critics as a mere employee in the emir’s court who lacks political vision.
Western diplomatic sources attributed Sheikh Abdullah’s sacking to the recent signing of a security agreement with Turkey that was imposed on him.
Sources claimed Sheikh Abdullah, who was also interior minister, questioned the agreement Doha signed with Ankara to, ostensibly, protect the FIFIA 2022 World Cup with the Turkish security forces but the deal will last beyond the World Cup.
Qatari and Turkish official news agencies were vague on details of the high-level Qatar-Turkey meetings February 4. Sheikh Mohammed posted on Twitter that he had “an excellent meeting” with Erdogan and Cavusoglu.
Several Gulf Arab countries have issues with Turkey because of its support for the Muslim Brotherhood, which is banned in countries such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt.
Those four countries severed ties with Doha in June 2017 over what they described as the Qatari government’s support for terrorism and Islamic groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as its ties to Iran.