Turkey reaches out to Saudi Arabia

Turkey's foreign policy now looks to the Gulf states, with which it has a long history of dissent
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AFP/ STEPHANIE LECOCQ  -   Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu

Turkey has already demonstrated its willingness to reach out to Arab countries in order to pursue policies of cooperation and reconciliation, leaving disputes behind. Turkey's long history of disagreements with a long list of enemy countries does not facilitate Turkey's strong and strategic foreign policy positioning. This is why Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan decided to begin a rapprochement with one of the most influential countries in the Persian Gulf, the United Arab Emirates.  However, the UAE is not the only country on the Arabian Peninsula with which Turkey has taken the first steps towards reconciliation.

Under this pretext, Turkey has shown its desire to move closer to Saudi Arabia, the Arab world's leading exporter and importer.  The latest call between Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan and the Turkish leader was followed by a letter from the Speaker of the Turkish parliament, Mustafa Sentop, addressed to the head of the Saudi Shura Council, Abdullah bin Mohammed Al-Sheikh, congratulating him on the Kingdom's National Day, according to the Turkish website 'Watan'.

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REUTERS/UMIT BEKTASALTAN  - Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan (L) shakes hands with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in this file photo, 28 February 2012.

Sentop has expressed his "sincere desire" to improve parliamentary relations with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, with which he says he has "common historical and cultural ties". This positive statement hints at Turkey's aspirations to maintain a close diplomatic relationship with certain Arab countries, despite the disagreements that have been waged in recent years. 

In this context of appeasement, it is worth mentioning the recent rapprochement that is reportedly taking place between Egypt and Turkey. Despite major disagreements due to the overthrow in 2013 of the Muslim Brotherhood leader and Erdogan's great ally, Mohamed Mursi, both countries have sought to leave behind all the causes that separate them in order to highlight those issues from which both can benefit.

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Earlier, Turkish minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that "the normalisation process with Egypt continues and we have developed a roadmap for it". Cavusoglu expressed his hopes for relations between Ankara and Riyadh, stating his desire for them to "continue to improve", thus indicating the need to continue taking steps in this direction. 

According to various sources, one of the main motivations for Turkey's rapprochement with Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia is religious respect. If we add to this the influence exerted by the Gulf states in the region, plus their geostrategic position, it is not difficult to see why Turkey decided to shift its foreign policy towards the Gulf.

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In Turkey's case, this benefit would respond to a policy of non-isolation in the region. The lack of allied states, which is essential for carrying out common cooperation policies in the economic and military spheres, the economic crisis hit hard by sanctions, the ongoing struggle for hydrocarbons and the drastic devaluation of the lira have led Erdogan to turn his aggressive foreign policy towards diplomacy with neighbouring countries, initiating a new diplomatic stage that is unprecedented in the region.