Interview Of Ambassador Ahmet Demirok
"By Ibrahim Badawi
Turkish Ambassador Ahmet Demirok to “Al Raya”:
Strategic partnership between Qatar and Turkey
H.E Mr. Ahmet Demirok, Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey, stressed that the strategic partnership between Qatar and his country is getting stronger and more prosperous year after year, pointing out that the two countries gained the current momentum in the past decade through the successive Turkish governments’ keenness on a strong and solid relations with Qatar. He said, in an interview with Al-Raya: The coming days will witness more mutual high-level visits to enhance relations of cooperation, stressing that Qatar and Turkey are making joint efforts in global forums to create awareness among the international community and seek together to find solutions to the challenges in the Middle East solutions.
H.E stressed on the Turkish confidence in Qatar’s ability to organize the World Cup in 2022, praising that Qatar will be the first Muslim country to organize this great event, adding that Qatar will organize the best World Cup ever, and Turkey is ready to provide any kind of assistance to ensure the success of this organization. He also pointed to the Qatari-Turkish consensus views on many regional and international issues, particularly the Palestinian issue, the Syrian crisis, the situation of the Russian intervention and counter-terrorism, also spoke about the upcoming elections and other issues in the next
The Qatari-Turkish relations are in very good condition. What are the main developments in relations in the last year? Is it possible to describe Doha as the strategic partner to Ankara?
Relations between Turkey and Qatar has gained its current momentum over the last decade. Consecutive governments in Turkey under President HE Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and now under Prime Minister HE Ahmet Davutoğlu have been working a lot to keep this pace. As a result, our relations have been flourishing in all areas.
Throughout the last year, we have witnessed an increasing number of trade, cultural and military delegations. The current year is the Year of Culture and we will have more events in the days to come. We are also holding “Nasr 2015” joint military exercise in Qatar. We are seeking to receive more investment from Qatari businesses. So, day by day ties connecting Turkey and Qatar to each other are getting stronger. I can simply say that we are strategic partners.
We have witnessed this month the Turkish- Qatari Exhibition for Defense Industries and High-Tech. What is its importance? What are the most important deals that enhance the partnership between the two countries?
Cooperation in defense industries is vital to our shared interests. For the last decade, Turkish defense industries have proved its innovative capacity and now there is a wide range of products we are exporting. Subject to our strengthening military relations, we hope to establish a vibrant cooperation in defense industries.
High Tech Port has been instrumental in this regard. 67 Turkish companies active on high technologies and defense industries participated. The exhibition provided publicity for Turkish defense and high technology products to Qatari authorities and industries. I hope that the exhibition will create added momentum to our defense relations.
The region and the world are going through exceptional circumstances.Is the coordination between Doha and Ankara concerning the Syrian issue still strong?
Regional conditions are getting worse. Instability spreads over every corner of this region. Issues related to terrorism and the displacement of people in huge numbers are deepening the crisis.
Turkey and Qatar strive to find solutions to the challenges in the Middle East. We both
have historical and cultural relations to all sides in conflict areas and this brings to us the responsibility to react. I believe in the constructive role our countries can play in the region. Turkey and Qatar are making joint efforts in global forums such as UN and OIC to create awareness among the international community.
Especially on Syrian front, this joint Turkish-Qatari stance is very strong. Our countries supports Syrian people and their struggle for democracy and a decent life. A united, free and peaceful Syria would be an invaluable asset for our entire region. This is what Turkey and Qatar are working for.
Some believe that the cuff tends to Russia in Syria now. What is your comment?
Regarding Russian activities in Syria, you will remember that Turkish and Qatari governments, along with France, Germany, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom and United States made a joint statement. It was stated that the Russian military build-up in Syria and especially the attacks by the Russian Air Force on Hama, Homs and Idlib led to civilian casualties and did not target Da'esh; and that these military actions constituted a further escalation and would only fuel more extremism and radicalization.
Moreover, violations of Turkish airspace by Russian jets has been strongly condemned and Turkish authorities clearly demanded that any such violations should not be repeated.
How is the convergence of the visions of both sides on the issues of Palestine, Yemen and the fight against terrorism?
Palestine is an important issue for us. Both Turkey and Qatar are frank supporters of Palestine and its people. In times of recent crisis in Palestine, especially in Gaza, Turkish and Qatari governments made bold regional and international efforts to stop it. Qatar has embarked on a generous program of funding the post-conflict reconstruction in Gaza. Turkey is also playing its part on humanitarian and technical assistance to Palestine.
On Yemen, Turkey supports the legitimate government led by President Hadi. Our stance is in line with Qatari and the GCC positions. Yemen is critical for the security of GCC and the region. Restoring state authority throughout the country and revitalizing dialogue is important.
Turkey has been fighting terrorism for a long time. This fight has only been emboldened by the latest attacks in Turkey. We are pleased to see Qatar’s full support to our counter-terrorism efforts. Fight against terrorism needs a unified, coordinated approach by all countries. Both Turkey and Qatar are a part of international efforts in this area.
Has the Turkish confidence been shaken in the eligibility of Qatar to host 2022 with the repeated campaigns and the allegations against them? Why?
No, not even an inch. We always supported Qatar in its bid and we will always do. Qatar
will be the first Muslim, Middle Eastern country to host the championship. This is itself self-explanatory for our support. I am sure that Qatar will host and organize the best World Cup ever. Turkey is ready to offer every kind of assistance to Qatar for the success of this organization.
Do we soon expect high-level visits of officials or delegations?
High level visits between our countries are a routine now. We expect some visits in the months to come.
Is there any role for Turkey in the convergence of views between Iran and the GCC countries about Iran's nuclear program?
Turkey respects the right to access nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. With this understanding, Turkey, like Qatar, welcomed the nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1. We hope that this agreement will be beneficial to regional peace and stability. Even before these negotiations started, you will remember that Turkey and Brazil in 2009 spared no effort to solve this issue and they convinced Iran to an agreement then. I think it was this effort that showed the world Iran’s readiness for a deal.
What is the extent of development in the volume of trade exchange and what are your expectations for the future?
Economic relations are not indifferent to the dynamic growth of our relations in all
fields. I am glad to say that our economic ties are getting stronger each day. Of course, the brotherly relations between Turkey and Qatar motivate the two nations to deepen their business and trade relations.
Bilateral trade volume of two countries reached 1 billion 310 million US Dollars in 2014. The exports of Turkey to Qatar was 344 million US Dollars and imports of Turkey from Qatar was 965 million US Dollars. Yet, this does not reflect the truepotentials of our countries. There is still room to advance our trade relations. We believe that the exports of Turkey to Qatar will further increase as construction projects in Qatar accelerates.
We perceive that, Turkey and Qatar, as key players in the global markets, share common
interests and opportunities.In this context, in the bilateral economic relations perspective, construction, energy, health, agriculture sectors and plastic and aluminum industries have particular potential for cooperation.
What are the most prominent Turkish investments in Qatar? And Qatari investments in Turkey?
Investment is of greater significance given the notable growth and dynamism demonstrated by the two countries. In particular, I can say that Turkish construction companies constitute the driving force of Turkish investments to Qatar and I am proud to
see Turkish construction companies going from strength to strength in Qatar. They assumed 119 projects so far, which corresponds to 15.1 billion US dollars. Among these projects, Museum of Islamic Arts, New Doha International Airport, Qatar National Convention Center, Salwa Road, North Road, Ras Laffan to Mesaieed Gas Pipeline project and Qatargas Onshore Facilities are the most prominent ones.
On the other side, Turkey, with its updated, modernized and simple legal basis for foreign investors offers ample opportunities for Qatari businessmen. Qatar has already invested in several projects in Turkey, primarily in the real estate, banking and media sectors. We expect to see more Qatari investment in Turkey.
What are the investment opportunities available in Qatar for the Turkish investors and vice versa?
Qatar has the third largest proved natural gas reserves in the world. This abundance of
natural resources coupled with recent legal liberalization, economic diversification and a burgeoning economy means that there are many opportunities for investment in Qatar. These opportunities have been greatly enhanced after Qatar was elected to host the World Cup in 2022. Foreign investors are welcomed and various incentives are available to attract foreign capital, including tax and customs duty exemptions.
On my part, I am doing my best to encourage Turkish businessmen to come here and explore these opportunities. We would like to have two-way cooperation rather than one way investments.
Regarding investment opportunities in Turkey, the numbers speak for themselves. With a GDP exceeding 800 billion dollars, and a total trade volume of more than 400 billion dollars, Turkey is the the 17th largest economy in the world and 6th in Europe.
Today, Turkey’s dynamic economy, large internal market, competitive industry and skilled labour force offer numerous opportunities for foreign investors. Turkey has a comparative advantage, thanks to the profound economic reforms materialized during the last decade. The whole legal system has been changed in a liberal manner so that foreign investors can come and invest in Turkey without any hesitation.
Briefly, I take this opportunity to call again Qatari investors and businessmen to benefit
from the investment opportunities in Turkey particularly in profitable areas like agriculture, banking, energy, tourism and industry.
Qatar is topping the gas producing countries in the world. Is there a new collaboration in this regard?
Given the strategic nature of our relations and Qatar’s abilities in energy sector, I believe it is crucial to intensify cooperation on energy. We are thus keen to further strengthen our bilateral relations in this field.
As its economy growing, Turkey’s demand for energy is increasing. Turkish policy on energy relies on securing its energy demand and being a transit hub for energy. With its vast experience, Qatar is well positioned to support Turkey’s energy policies.
What is the number of visas that were issued to Qataris last year? What about the Turkish visitors to Doha?
We are happy to see increasing Qatari interest on Turkey. In this context, the number
of the Qataris who visited Turkey in 2014 has exceeded 29 thousands. It was around 5 thousand five years ago. Turkish citizens have also been visiting Qatar as well, mainly for business purposes. As you know, Turkey is the top destination for our Qatari brothers and sisters in 2015.
Turkey has witnessed tragic terrorist incidents. Can this affect holding the elections on time?
I do not think that the elections will be affected from these incidents. In the past we held elections in worse conditions. Turkey has enough capacity to carry out the upcoming elections in a peaceful atmosphere.
Let me briefly remind you that Turkey has long been a country fighting against terrorism. We are determined to keep the momentum to eradicate terrorism in Turkey as well as contributing to root it out regionally and globally. As a foreign policy priority, we are seeking to create an environment of peace and stability in our immediate neighbourhood and beyond.
The unstable environment in Iraq and Syria makes it even more pressing for Turkey to
take necessary precautions in order to prevent any adverse security impacts. Turkey has been indicating the direct and imminent threat from the terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq. The latest attacks are side effects on Turkey.
Is there a chance to complete the EU deal with Turkey about the refugees? And why?
The refugee crisis is a clear example of how Syrian upheaval spillovers to farther regions. European countries are now acknowledging the fact that they are not immune from the crisis in the Middle East.
As you know, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was in Turkey last week to discuss that. Turkey is a key country in this regard. There are 2,5 million asylum-seekers in Turkey and Turkey has been funding them only by itself so far. I am very happy to say that Turkey and the EU have now same understanding to address the refugee crisis. I believe that following this visit, we will be able to create a balance in sharing the humanitarian, social and economic costs of these displaced people."