Ambassador Ahmet Demirok Gave An Interview To "al Raya" Daily
Wednesday, March 9th
Interview with Ahmet Demirok, Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey to Doha
“The people and the government of Qatar are the most generous partners of Turkey taking the responsibility towards the Syrian refugees
H.E. Mr. Ahmet Demirok Ambassador of Turkey to the State of Qatar confırmed that Qatar is Turkey’s best ally in the region and both countries are keen to establish institutional relationships established by the Supreme Committee for strategic cooperation, and signing crucial agreements in all areas of common interest. And H.E. said that the strong relations between the leaderships and governments of the two countries enhance the development of relations which is also in the interests of their people. He expressed his appreciation for the messages of reassure and solidarity sent by Doha to Ankara in all crises and difficult times, stressing that the people and the government of Qatar are the most generous partners of Turkey taking the responsibility towards the Syrian refugees. He also noted his pleasure for Qatar’s role in disputes between Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
Mr. Demirok confirmed the great role that could be played by Qatar in uniting the countries in the region, pointing out not to exclude it while establishing a Saudi - Turkish – Egyptian alliance, as the Egyptian-Turkish dispute is a temporary situation. He also stressed the need for the cooperation between the major players in the region to achieve the high objectives, pointing out that Qatar has a pivotal role to achieve this cooperation. Confirming that the defense and security cooperation with Qatar are well placed, that the security of the Gulf have a strategic importance to Ankara, and the security challenges in Turkey did not make change the Qataris’ strong desire to invest there. He also spoke about the biggest joint investments between the two countries and the volume of trade and the importance of Qatari gas to Turkey and its participation in Doha DIMDEX Exhibition and other details are in the following lines:
The last week witnessed the ratification of three agreements in Maritime transportation, Education and Media between Qatar and Turkey. What is the importance of these agreements to the relations of the two countries?
Thanks to the excellent relations at the level of leadership and government in both countries, relationship between Turkey and Qatar are exemplary in the region and the world, but they are keen to institutionalize their relationships. The concluded agreements of both sides form a firm base for the relations, where it was founded the Supreme Committee of the strategic partnership between the two countries in December 2014 and held its first meeting in December 2015 in Doha with two high-level delegations from the two sides, headed by the leaderships of the two countries.
17 agreements were signed in all fields, including the three conventions that have been ratified by the Qatari side in the Maritime transport, Education and Media, which is a good step because these agreements establish a solid legal base of the two countries’ relations.
How do you respond to those who associate the strength of relations between the two countries by the current regime in Turkey which can be changed if the regime changes?
Qatari-Turkish relations are distinctive and solid, they were not strained by any differences so we look at the future by this angle and it is normal that governments shift and change, but with the establishment of relations on the principle of institutions, any effect will be limited. There is no doubt that the strong relationship of friendship and mutual trust between the leaderships of the two countries' governments have a major role in enhancing and developing the relations which also in the interest of their people, I do not think that any Turkish government may be considering reducing the attention to relations with the State of Qatar.
Do we expect an official high-level visit soon?
Mutual visits between the officials of both countries have become routine and permanent, so their repetition is expected throughout the year as the need, and is an indication of the strength and excellence relations between the two countries.
Did you touch any decline of the Qatari investments in Turkey with the repetition of the terrorist attacks recently?
Qataris know Turkey very well, so we have not touched any decline in the Qatari investments and there are no negative indications on that, the Turkish government spares no effort in providing security and stability needed to attract foreign investment, including the Qatari one. We have to realize that terrorism hits all over the world, however it does not discourage our determination to confront it and continue the development and investment programs. And there is no effect on the strong desire of the Qataris to invest in Turkey because it is a promising way of investment. The real estate investment returns in Turkey increased by 25% last year.
Do you meanthat the investment climate is stable despite all these challenges?
Yes, very stable. Turkey has become a magnet for foreign investment from all over the world, not only from the GCC.
The Syrian Crisis
Qatar and Turkey did not abandon the Syrian people issue, while others claim that the overthrow of a legitimate government is the objective. What is your comment?
Qatar, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and even the United States have the same principle, there is a human tragedy going on in Syria and the regime killed nearly 300 thousand people, which is the main reason behind this tragedy and for that reason it has lost its legitimacy. We are sure that there is no way to reach a lasting peaceful solution in Syria just by the departure of the system, and then there will be a new system that embraces all sections of the Syrian people.
Does some claim that the alternative is terrorism?
This is promoted by the system. Free Syrian Army is not a terrorist organization but is a legal organization fighting for the rights of the Syrian people and for a decent life for the Syrians.
And to what extent does the Qatar aid ease the refugees’ crisis in Turkey?
The people and the government of Qatar are the most generous partners of Turkey taking the responsibility towards the Syrian refugees. We highly appreciate the efforts of the Qatari government and the non-governmental organizations for their great momentum in the provision of humanitarian and relief assistance to the refugees. We hope that other countries do the same.
What about Turkey's participation in Doha International Maritime Defence Exhibition?
Turkey has a great interest in taking part in the exhibition. 27 Turkish companies have participated in the previous session and about 40% of the exhibition space was allocated for the products of the Turkish defence as we expect a significant presence of Turkish companies, but we do not have the exact number now.
The Qatari Gas
In the last December, the agreement regarding Turkey's import of Qatari gas was very much discussed. What is new with this agreement?
We buy Qatari gas from the spot markets, which is urgent delivery when needed. Our need for gas increases in the winter. The primary suppliers are Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan and northern Iraq, and this agreement contributes the goal of Turkey to diversify its energy supply sources. Qatar is a reliable supplier of energy to Turkey.
Does not the Qatari gas constitute a strategic importance for Turkey in the current dispute with Moscow?
This is true. We made an evaluation after the incident of shooting down of a Russian warplane which violated the Turkish airspace. In that term, Qatar was a source of comfort for us and we highly appreciate for the messages of reassurance and solidarity sent by Qatar when Ankara needs it in the difficult times.
To what extend Qatar can be a good ally to Turkey?
Of course it is. And I am proud of being an ambassador of my country here and I consider myself lucky to serve my country in this brotherly country, because Qatar is the closest ally of Turkey in the region.
Despite the strategic partnership, do you think there is still room for improvement in bilateral trade volume?
This is true.The trade volume is nearly $ 3 billion. It has risen by 70% in 2014 and by 35% last year. We expect that trade volume between us will increase with the end of the Syrian crisis.
Do you mean that the Syrian crisis has an impact on trade between the two countries?
Of course, because the cost of transport is very important, and there are two alternative methods of transport: through ships across the sea routes or through Iran. With the end of the Syrian crisis, there will be greater growth in the volume of trade. And I am optimistic on this issue because the current trade volume does not reflect the real potential between our countries.
What are the alternative steps that are being taken to increase the volume of the trade?
There are ongoing talks at technical levels. We are trying to attract more Qatari tourists to Turkey. Turkey is becoming a top destination for Qatari tourists and they know Turkish products very well and they would like to have them in Qatar.
Which are the most prominent sectors that can promote joint investments?
Qatar and Turkey are complementing each other and each sector is an opportunity of joint investment. We do not want to be selfish while calling Qataris to invest in Turkey. But we want a three-pronged approach for Qatari -Turkish joint investments, one in Turkey, the other in Qatar and the third one in the other countries. The negotiations are still ongoing and we will have concrete results of these investments as we expect more of them in the future.
Nebras, Qatari Energy Company announced a huge project in Ankara for the extraction of coal and generating electricity valued at 12 billion dollars. What is the latest about this project?
Yes, the consultations are continuing and there is a huge potential for cooperation in coal extraction in this region and also the establishment of a power plant. It was signed a side agreement on this issue during the visit of President Erdogan to Doha in December 2013 and the consultations are going well and on right direction; and as you know, huge projects require significant time.
What are the most prominent Qatari investments in Turkey?
The power plant is the most prominent of 12 billion dollars. As the Qatari Diar invest in real estate. And Qatar bought two of the biggest banks in Turkey. And we are optimist about the coming of more Qatari investments in Turkey.
What are the main sectors in which Turkish companies operate in Qatar?
The building and construction sectors highlight in Qatar. Turkish companies have implemented projects in Qatar valued at 15 billion dollars and we expect more in light of Qatar 2030 Vision which was allocated 200 billion dollars for them. Turkey is distinctive in construction technology and infrastructure. And we are ready to contribute to these projects as we expect more presence of Turkish companies with the approach of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Security of the Region
Some observerscalled for the importance of forming a Saudi- Turkish- Egyptian alliance which includes the largest armies of the region to protect their common interests. Does it seem possible with the continuation of the Egyptian - Turkish dispute?
Of course it can, and I think that the current situation between Turkey and Egypt is temporary, as you can see, there is a great convergence between Turkey and Saudi Arabia this year, and we were talking about differences between the two sides last year; but now Saudi Arabia is a strategic partner to Turkey. And certainly Egypt must be part of this team and can take some positive steps toward the Muslim Brotherhood. The basic problem in our region is division. We are transferring our problems to third parts to come up with solutions according to their interests, for that, we do not have sustainable progress in maintaining security and peace in our region and I think this is the right time to unite and solve our problems by ourselves.
Do you mean that it can resolve the Turkish-Egyptian dispute and that the establishment of this alliance is not impossible?
It is not impossible. Because we must have a high goals for our region, and in order to achieve peace and stability it must have been cooperation between the key players in the region, and Qatar can play a big role in achieving this unity. Qatar enjoys excellent diplomacy and acceptance among all states in the region. And we appreciate her great role that she has played in the mediation between Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Kuwait also.”