Attention is drawn to the Saudi capital, Riyadh, where the two planes of Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, and the Emir of the State of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, land in two previously scheduled visits, but the remarkable synchronization between them may have dimensions and connotations, especially as the “guests of the Kingdom” Within one alliance.
And this alliance had already bothered the leaders of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for more than three years, and resulted in a rupture, siege and crisis in relations.
Cavusoglu’s visit is the first of its kind in four years. As for the visit of the Emir of the State of Qatar, it is the second after reaching the “Peace of Al-Ula” last January, and this is an agreement that has changed radically from what came before it, in terms of the relationship between the aforementioned triangle (Doha, Riyadh , Ankara).
On Monday, the Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs, Faisal bin Farhan, delivered a letter to the Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, from Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz, inviting him to visit the Kingdom.
While the details of the discussions that the Emir of the State of Qatar will have with King Salman bin Abdulaziz are absent, the visit of the Turkish foreign minister comes with the aim of removing barriers in the way of re-normalizing relations with Riyadh, a trend that Ankara has been pursuing for months, within the framework of the foreign repositioning policy that it began to proceed on Hurry and abruptly, after the arrival of the new US administration to the White House.
So far, steps to restore normal relations between Riyadh and Ankara seem slow, in the sense that they lack commonalities between the two parties, and the mechanism as well.
On the other hand, the general scene after the Gulf Reconciliation Agreement (Al-Ula) indicates that Doha and Riyadh are working to open direct channels of communication and continuously activate the visit schedules, in steps that would move them to a stage that might be closer to friendship than partnership and alliance.
“A visitation governed by circumstances”
The relations of Riyadh and Ankara were strained due to Turkey’s support for Qatar in a dispute between the two Gulf countries, before the tension escalated to the stage of crisis when a Saudi team assassinated the journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, who was opposed to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler of the Kingdom.
Following these developments, relations worsened further and reached its climax to the point of a commercial boycott of Turkish products in Saudi Arabia, which negatively affected the proportion of Turkish exports to the Kingdom’s territory, since October of last year.
The Turkish researcher, Hisham Junay, reads Cavusoglu’s visit to Riyadh on Monday as part of the “openness policy” presented by Ankara in several files, including the pending issues with Greece, Egypt and Iraq.
“Besides the openness and Ankara’s desire to settle its relationship with Riyadh, the Palestinian issue comes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem,” Junay said in statements to Al-Hurra.
And the Turkish researcher continues: “Especially since this visit has dimensions related to the interests of the Islamic world and the future of Jerusalem.”
A few hours ago, Cavusoglu posted a picture of him during his arrival in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, and he captioned it via Twitter: “We are in Saudi Arabia to discuss our bilateral relations and discuss important issues of concern to our region, especially the attacks on the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the persecution of the Palestinian people.”
Researcher Junai excludes that there is a link between the visit of the Turkish foreign minister and the Emir of Qatar to Riyadh. He explains: “With regard to Qatar’s mediation of reconciliation between Turkey and Saudi Arabia, I do not think that the Saudi-Qatari relations are at their best.”
He adds, “Yes, there was a Qatari influence on the tension in relations in previous years, but on the other hand, reforming them between Riyadh and Ankara will not be through Qatar, but through common interests.”
“Doha is benefiting”
What Riyadh is witnessing today cannot be separated from what Saudi Al-Ula witnessed last January. After the Gulf reconciliation agreement that was signed in it, many prominent positions emerged from those countries, and although they did not come out of the media framework, but according to observers, they established a new phase in terms of ending crises. Or fix it at the very least.
Turkey was not immune to the Al-Ula Agreement or its outcomes, as it was a “absentee present.”
What is striking about all this is the position that Doha announced days after the reconciliation agreement, expressing its willingness to play the mediating role between Ankara and Riyadh, in order to re-normalize relations between them, which was mentioned by the Special Envoy of the Qatari Foreign Minister for Combating Terrorism and Mediating in Settlement of Disputes, Absolutely. Al-Qahtani.
Dr. Ali Bakir, professor of international relations at the Ibn Khaldun Center at Qatar University, points to the absence of any details about the coincidence between the two visits to the Saudi capital.
“But the Qatari side had declared after the Al-Ula agreement that it was ready for any mediation between the Saudi and Turkish side in the event that any of the parties requested this matter,” Bakir said in statements to Al-Hurra.
There is a common interest for Turkish-Saudi relations to be strong “because Qatar will ultimately benefit.”
Bakir added, “This triangle was effective at the end of 2015 and early 2016. Therefore, if there is a repositioning in the region, this triangle is supposed to be reactivated now.”
The professor of international relations believes that “the coincidence of the two parties’ visit to the Kingdom is a positive sign. There may be a link in the matter based on previous Qatari statements, but there is no conclusive information on this matter so far. “
“Adjustments and appeasures”
In the meantime, all estimates indicate that Saudi Arabia wants to open a new page with Turkey, but it is waiting, according to the general scene, before taking a big step in this regard, and is waiting for the clarity of the new Turkish trends, and whether they are serious or just repositioning in the speech.
Six months have passed since the commercial – unofficial – boycott of Turkish products imported by Saudi Arabia, during which the numbers changed upside down and their effects were reversed on the ground, which is confirmed by recent data issued by the Turkish Exporters Association.
Saudi Arabia also depends on any move towards Ankara on the results of the Turkish-Egyptian talks. Any progress on the Turkish-Egyptian track will reflect positively on the Turkish-Saudi track, and vice versa.
From the details of the above, the outlook for the next stage remains ambiguous, in terms of the mechanism by which Ankara and Riyadh will move to restore relations as they were previously. And whether there is interference from a third party, it may be from Qatar, which previously was the “axis of disagreement” and is now turning into the “axis of reconciliation”.
The former advisor in the Saudi Foreign Ministry, Salem Al-Yami believes that the region is on the verge of a series of settlements and calm for a number of files that “were the subject of a dispute between more than one party.”
In statements to Al-Hurra, Al-Yami said: “The most prominent thing that can be seen is that Saudi Arabia is back as a main hub from which all initiatives are launched. In Riyadh, many lines of relations and interests of major countries and regional parties intersect.”
This is evidenced by the emergence of the Saudi-Iranian talks to the surface, then the visits of officials in Doha, and finally the Turkish steps towards Riyadh.
Al-Yami, a writer and researcher in international relations, continues: “All this confirms that the title of the current movement is the Saudi position.”
He explains that most observers claim that “all these strenuous efforts will deal with the most important issues in the region, foremost among which is the conflict in Yemen and overcoming Turkish-Arab differences, and the region’s willingness to deal with somewhat different roles for international players, led by the United States of America.”
Prelude To Quadruple Summit
For his part, the Qatari political analyst, Saleh Gharib, links what the capital Riyadh is witnessing now with the recent “Al-Ula” agreement, indicating that the two visits are part of the opening of dialogue between Turkey and Saudi Arabia and also between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
“Recently, contacts started between the king of Saudi Arabia and the Turkish president, and with them Qatar sought to open paths of reconciliation,” Gharib said in statements to Al-Hurra.
The political analyst believes that the visit of the Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu to Riyadh comes in this context, and a prelude to a “quadripartite summit” in Saudi Arabia that includes the Turkish president, the Iranian president, the king of Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
No official statements have shown signs of holding this summit, whether by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia or Turkey, Iran and Qatar, but it is proven that the secret talks between the Saudis and the Iranians are still ongoing in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.
Gharib believes that the coincidence of Cavusoglu’s visit with the visit of the Emir of Qatar comes “within the framework of the rapprochement that Qatar has sought since the end of the Gulf Summit in Al-Ula.” He expects that the first visit will open the door to “high-level” visits between Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
Despite the foregoing, Riyadh’s intentions remain “shy” about the Turkish rush, which is evidenced by the stances it took in the past days by closing eight Turkish schools and its constant reluctance to import Turkish products.
Four months have passed since the beginning of 2021, during which the foreign policy of Turkey has changed upside down. Those who were previously placed in the category of “enemies” are now closer to the “new friends.”
According to observers, the above may make it difficult, according to observers, of the rapid rapprochement between the two countries, at the current stage, in contrast to the rapprochement movements between Ankara and Egypt, which have been at the forefront of the foreign policy scene for months, and culminated a few days ago with a visit by a high-level Turkish delegation to the Egyptian capital, Cairo.