Büyükelçi Ahmet Demirok'un, Türkiye-katar Ilişkilerine Dair "daily Sabah" Gazetesine Verdiği Mülakat
"Turkey's Ambassador to Qatar Ahmet Demirok spoke with Daily Sabah in an exclusive interview, praised the long-lasting bilateral relations between Qatar and Turkey, and underlined that their relations are based on historical ties and strong cultural affinities. Ambassador Demirok said that the two countries share a common stance regarding the ongoing Syrian crisis and are actively cooperating. Responding to claims of a joint Saudi-Turkish-Qatari operation against the Syrian regime, Demirok underlined that these countries aspire for stability, progress and peace in the region.
DS: How would you evaluate the current state of bilateral relations between Qatar and Turkey? From your perspective, what are the reasons for close relations between the two countries?
Turkish-Qatari relations are simply excellent. The relations are based on historical ties and strong cultural affinities. On this common ground, the two countries have joined forces to further cement their cooperation in every field.
Our foreign policies are very similar and compatible in the region. On all areas of interest, we enjoy an open dialogue as part of our strategic cooperation. Both Turkey and Qatar pursue principled policies.
Last year more than 36,000 Qataris visited Turkey for tourism and trade purposes, indicating an increase of 33 percent. I believe this is very important because it directly emboldens human-to-human contacts. Turkey is becoming a top tourism destination for Qataris.
One further reason that facilitates our cooperation is the close relations between the leaders. As a result, we are frequently having high level bilateral visits that encourage Turks and Qataris to work together. I can see that Turkish and Qatari authorities are dedicated in continuing the progress of relations on economic, social and cultural fields. For example in economic relations, Turkish businesses in Qatar are going from strength to strength. So far, the total value of projects undertaken by Turkish companies and contractors in Qatar has exceeded $15 billion. This could only be possible due to the mutual trust built throughout the years between Turkish companies and Qatari authorities. Likewise, Qatari investment in Turkey has an upward trend and will likely to rise in the years to come. Moreover, Turkey is becoming a top tourism destination for Qataris. Last year more than 36,000 Qataris visited Turkey for tourism and trade purposes, indicating an increase of 33 percent. I believe this is very important because it directly emboldens human-to-human contacts.
We are further motivated to do more to intensify ties at the grassroots level. To this end, Turkey and Qatar will continue to build their cultural relations. We celebrated 2015 as the Year of Culture between our countries, with 40 events successfully carried out in both countries. In December 2015, we opened up a Yunus Emre Turkish Cultural Center in Doha, which will further our cultural relations.
DS: Do you reckon that the current level of relations are solely due to close relations between the two leaders, or due to long-lasting economic, cultural and social ties?
Common history and cultural affinities are a very fertile ground for Turkey and Qatar to cultivate. I can clearly say that both people are discovering each other once again. Of course, close and open dialogue between President Erdoğan and Emir Sheikh Tamim, as well as other high level Turkish and Qatari officials, are very important. We are trying to institutionalize relations to the best of our abilities. Economic and social ties are getting stronger. I believe that these strong relations are in the best interests of our brotherly countries.
DS: Qatar and Turkey share the same vision in foreign policy, policies especially overlapping with regards to Syria. What has led to this?
On Syria, Turkey and Qatar have a joint stance and actively cooperate. We seek for a solution for Syria that would serve the interests of its people, and closely work for stability within democracy in Syria. Both Turkey and Qatar believe that sustainable peace and stability can be achieved only by the removal of the Assad regime and the establishment of a new administration which will embrace all segments of Syrian society. Syrian people want a decent life, just like any other people would ask for. They want a climate of stability within democracy and for their basic rights to be protected. These are very civil demands that should be supported by the whole world. Turkey and Qatar have supported Syrians thus far, and will continue to do so.
At the international level, we are a part of the international anti-DAESH coalition. We are supporters of the Geneva process and hope that international efforts shall bear fruit.
DS: How did the Qatari public react to the recent media reports rumors of a joint Saudi-Turkish-Qatari operation against the Syrian regime? Do you find this alliance realistic?
The current regional dynamics, threats of terrorism, and other simmering regional challenges, all dictate working in closer cooperation. Turkey and Qatar are members of the international coalition on counter-terrorism, and they have been combatting against DAESH from the very beginning. Lately Saudi Arabia also took the decision to join the coalition and sent fighter jets to Turkey.
We should note that Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are three brotherly countries. They aspire for stability, progress and peace in our shared region. For a long time, we have struggled each against the other in this region. I see this new dynamic as a glimmer of hope for the region. I believe that as three important countries of the region, intense dialogue amongst us will set an example and help the peoples and countries of the region understand the value of being and working together. People of this region have been suffering from delegating their problems to other countries for a solution. However, we have come to a point that we should produce our own solutions to our own problems. I can say that the Qatari public opinion is also in this direction. Qataris value regional initiatives and believe that the united power of this region can overcome problems.
DS: In recent month Turkey's BOTAŞ and Qatar's national petroleum company signed agreement to purchase liquid natural gas (LNG) over a long-term period. How will this agreement help Turkey to diversify its energy mix?
I think you refer to the agreement signed on the occasion of the visit to Qatar of President Erdoğan on Dec. 2, 2015. This was a crucial agreement with respect to our long-settled policy of diversifying energy routes to Turkey.
Qatar is a trusted partner for Turkey in energy security. It is the biggest LNG exporter in the world and has a huge capacity. It is also looking forward to expanding cooperation with growing economies. As Turkey, we have been buying LNG from Qatar until now from the spot market. A long-term deal will undoubtedly sustain a longer-term partnership and contribute to Turkey's energy security. This is simply a win-win situation and I hope that it will be a first step toward a broader energy cooperation with Qatar.
DS: It was announced last year that Turkey will establish a military base in Qatar as part of a defens agreement, aimed at helping them to confront common enemies. What's the latest news? What does this military base mean, from both Turkish and Qatari perspectives?
Turkey and Qatar face common problems, and we are both very concerned about developments in the region. We confront common enemies. At this critical time for the Middle East, cooperation between Turkey and Qatar is vital. Corollary to this, military relations between our countries are continuously getting stronger. The base will be Turkey's first overseas military installation in the Middle East. Some ground troops would be stationed at the base, as well as air and naval units, military trainers and special operations forces. The base will primarily serve as a venue for joint training exercises.
Stability of the Gulf is an important policy for Turkey. I believe this base will support this policy. It will also be an important foothold for Turkey and Qatar in their regional cooperation.
DS: Is there anything that you would like to add?
As I mentioned before, our region and the Muslim world are passing through a very critical period, and the peoples of the region are suffering. Reaching a sustainable peace and stability is directly related with our efforts to unite to solve our own problems. That is why the current excellent level of relations between Turkey and Qatar are setting a very good example for our neighboring countries to unite over common grounds for a peaceful and stable environment in our region. Material losses can easily be compensated within time, however we should come together and work harder to stop the bloodshed and humanitarian tragedy in the region, because we cannot bring back our beloved children or relatives who lost their lives as a result of ongoing conflict in our region. I wish and pray for peace and stability in our region and in the world."
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