Ambassador Ahmet Demirok Gave An Interview To "al Arab" Daily
Al Arab newspaper by Mostafa Elbahnasawy
The Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey in Doha H.E Ahmet Demirok has expected that the State of Qatar will be one of the biggest investor countries in Turkey. Qatar has already invested in several projects in Turkey, as the most prominent one is Afşin-Elbistan coal-fired power plant Project with the cost of 12 billion dollars. He also pointed that, in terms of direct foreign investment in Turkey, Qatar is among top 20 countries.
H.E said in an interview for Al Arab newspaper that they are also expecting the Qatari banks to apply for new banking licences to Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency of Turkey.
Commercial and economic relations are getting stronger as a result of the dynamic growth of the two countries relations in all fields. The bilateral trade volume of two countries was nearly 1.3 billion US Dollars in 2015.
H.E added that Turkey is the top destination for our Qatari brothers and sisters. The number of the Qataris who visited Turkey in 2015 has exceeded 35 thousands. Qatari interest has been increased on Turkey.
1-How do you see the Qatari-Turkish relations? What steps do you intend to do to activate these relations?
Turkish-Qatari relations were already activated and over the last decade gained a strong momentum. Based on their strong historical ties and cultural affinities, I can say that Turkey and Qatar enjoy the best relationship any two countries in the world can possibly have. On the political front, our relations are excellent. Our countries have been joining forces to consolidate their cooperation in every possible field under the vise leadership of H.E. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and H.H. Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. High level visits are further strengthening our common desire to work together.
Last year was the Qatari- Turkish cultural year and witnessed many events and joint activities in both countries. The cultural year was a great opportunity to release the potential in cultural and social fields and to cement our relations at grassroots level. On the occasion of 2015 Year of Culture, we opened Yunus Emre Turkish Cultural Center in Doha. The first Turkish school will be hopefully opened in September 2016. We are also working on the development of trade exchange to reach the level of the big potential and aspirations of the two sides.
2-Kindly, tell us about the commercial activities between the two countries and joint ventures?
Commercial and economic relations are not indifferent from 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. Investment opportunities in our countries are also important. Qatar is of course very strong in LNG and petrochemicals production and we are importing a lot from these.
We export to Qatar furniture, machinery, electrical appliances and steel.
In addition, Turkish construction companies are very capable and making business all over the world, including Qatar.
3-How much is the trade exchange between the two countries, and in any products exports and imports are concentrated between the two countries?
Bilateral trade volume of two countries was nearly 1.3 billion US Dollars in 2015. The exports of Turkey to Qatar was 423 million US Dollars and imports of Turkey from Qatar was 835 million US Dollars. Yet, this does not reflect the true potentials 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 we have diversity in our trade relations.
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.
4-What is the volume of the Qatari investments in Turkey at the moment, and do you expect any growth of these investments in the coming period?
Qatar has already invested in several projects in Turkey, primarily in the real estate, banking and media sectors. Qatar bought two of the biggest banks in Turkey. Turkey, with its updated, modernised and simple legal framework for foreign investors offers ample opportunities for Qatari businessmen. We expect to see more Qatari investment in Turkey. Investment is of greater significance given the notable growth and dynamism demonstrated by the two countries.
5-What is the status of Qatar in terms of countries investing in Turkey?
In terms of direct foreign investment in Turkey, Qatar is among top 20. But, there are significant amount of projects still under discussion and as you know, huge projects require significant time. For instance, Afşin-Elbistan coal-fired power plant project is the most prominent of 12 billion dollars. The consultations are going well and on the right direction. I believe that after realizing those projects, Qatar will be one of the biggest foreign investor countries in Turkey.
6-What are the main sectors in which Qatari individuals invest in Turkey ? Are there any special facilities you offer to encourage investment?
There are strategic sectors that always have importance such as energy, mining, construction, banking and finance. I believe there are concrete opportunities that can be capitalized. Healthcare is a particularly promising sector. I believe Turkey has a vast experience with its skilled doctors and nurses and good-quality hospitals and services in health sector. There is a lot to share in this area.
I also would like to draw your attention to food security. This will increasingly be a critical issue for the world. Obviously the resources are limited, yet both the world population and consumption are increasing. Securing the production of, and access to, food will gain further significance. Moreover, we need better technologies in agriculture. This could potentially be an important area of cooperation.
When you take into account the potentials of both countries, Turkey and Qatar are completing each other. Now, we are working to unite the potentials of both countries to further our cooperation in the every possible field.
7-How many Turkish companies in Qatar at the moment, and in what areas these companies operate?
There are 64 Turkish companies operating in Qatar. 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.
8-In Regard to the tourism sector, do you have statistics on the number of Qatari tourists to Turkey each year, and how do you see the role played by Turkish Airlines to promote tourism cooperation between Doha and Istanbul?
We are happy to see increasing Qatari interest on Turkey. The number of the Qataris who visited Turkey in 2015 has exceeded 35 thousands. It was only around 5 thousand six years ago. As you know, Turkey is the top destination for our Qatari brothers and sisters in 2015.
People choose Turkey due to a couple of reasons. Turkey has a nice climate, both in summer and in winter. Clean air, a bright sky, beaches and forests as well as hot springs are God given gifts to Turkey which we are willing to share.
Besides, Turkey is very rich culturally. Throughout the history, Turkey has been cradle for many civilizations. So, cultural component is also attracting people from overseas. Istanbul is an invaluable asset for us, by means of both its natural endowments and its cultural heritage.
Moreover, hospitality sector in Turkey is very advanced. In hotels, in restaurants, you can find one of the best services in the world with reasonable prices.
Turkish Airlines, the national flag carrier of Turkey, plays a pivotal role in promoting Turkey and attracting more tourists. This year Turkish Airlines are celebrating 10th anniversary in Doha. Within 10 years, Turkish Airlines itself a reputation of trustworthiness and credibility in the market with its young and modern fleet, experienced crew, outstanding service quality and corporate creativity.
9-Turkey is heavily dependent on Qatari liquefied gas to meet the need of this material in the process of development, please let us know about the cooperation in this area?
We buy Qatari gas from the spot markets, which is urgent delivery when needed. Our need for gas increasing in the winter. Actually, the primary suppliers are Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan and northern Iraq.
On the other side, Qatar is a trusted partner for Turkey in energy security. It is the biggest LNG exporter in the world and has a huge capacity. That’s why, Qatar Petroleum and Turkish Botas have signed an agreement on the occasion of the first meeting of Qatar-Turkish Supreme Strategic Committee on Dec. 2, 2015 in Doha.
This was a crucial agreement with respect to our long-settled policy of diversifying energy routes to Turkey.
10-A number of Qatari banks intend to open branches in Turkey, what about cooperation in the banking industry?
Turkey’s significance on the world finance stage is on the rise. The financial capital of the country, İstanbul, with its rich and vibrant economy, is now slated to become a World Finance Center. The country’s banking industry demonstrated remarkable resilience to the effects of the global financial crisis without any government backing, and Turkish banks are now regarded as one of the soundest in Europe. Turkey’s financial market is highly liberalized, foreign and local investors are equally treated and there are more than 20 banks with foreign capital.
Because of this strong banking system in Turkey, Commercial Bank of Qatar (CBQ) finalised the acqusition of a majority stake in Turkish lender Alternatifbank. Furthermore, Qatar National Bank (QNB) has recently purchased Finansbank which is one of biggest banks in Turkey.
We are also expecting the Qatari banks to apply for new banking licences to Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency of Turkey.”