Büyükelçi Ahmet Demirok'un Katar Üniversitesinde, Türkiye-Katar ilişkilerine dair konuşması

Ahmet Demirok 07.12.2014

Mrs. President
of Qatar University, Sheikha Abdulla Al Misnad,

Distinguished
Guests,

Dear Students,

It is my grand
privilege to address such a distingueshed audience. I would like to welcome you
all for coming here today.

I will make a
short presentation about Turkish-Qatari relations. This will entail historical,
political, economic and cultural aspects of our relations. I also would like to
reflect briefly to regional developments and Turkey’s position on these.

At the outset,
let me state that
Turkey and Qatar are two brotherly countries enjoying an excellent
relationship in every field. We have a shared history and cultural affinity.
Economic relations are getting stronger. Political dialogue between our
leaderships is at an excellent level.

History of relations

Turks and Qataris came across in the
history almost 500 years ago. The Ottoman Sultan Süleyman the Magnificient has
initiated his “6th
Imperial Campaign” to Baghdad and Basra in 1533.
After he took control over Basra, tribes of KATİF or AL AHSA region, comprised
of today’s Dammam and Ahsa regions in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar, sent
envoys to the Sultan and pledged allegiance to him. After this allegiance, because
the Sultan was also the KHALIFA of the Muslim world, Friday sermons were
started to be made under his name and a symbolic amount of tax was introduced.

The Ottomans did not interfere to local
administrators in AL AHSA region. Bahrainis, Qataris were free to rule
themselves unlike for example Aleppo, Damascus or Balkan districts which were
closely connected to İstanbul. Al Ahsa region on the other hand, was not linked
to central authority till 19th
century.

In the 19th century, the British
intensified their activities in the Gulf region. In the face of increasing
British presence, Sheikh Mohammed Al Thani, then the ruler of Qatar, requested Ottoman
assistance. The Ottomans acted over this request and sent a battalion for an
actual existence on the ground in Qatar. Hence starting from 1871, Turkish troops
were deployed in Al Obeid and Al Bidda areas of Qatar. Officially, Qatar was
made a district of “Vilayet-ül Basra”.

Let me explain here that this Ottoman
mission to Qatar was particularly focusing on sustaining the security of Qatar
and the stability of the Gulf. It was by no means an imperialistic move to rule
Qatar. To support this idea, Ottomans, even after the Turkish army was in
Qatar, did not have any motivations to change the system in Qatar. The ruling
Al Thani dynasty was respected and given the title “KAYMAKAM” to continue its
administration.

The wars in Libya, Balkans and the First
World War made it impossible for Ottoman administration to keep the troops in
Qatar. In 1913, Ottoman Sultan and British King signed an agreement which ruled
relinquishment of Ottoman rights over Qatar and on August 1915 the last Ottoman
soldier left Qatar. In 1916 British period started.

One of the prominent historians, Zekeriya
Kurşun, who made extensive studies about Turkish-Qatari relations, asserts that
the earliest document he could find about Qatar in the Ottoman archives was
written in 1555. The document defines Qatar as an economically active center
whose people are largely dealing with shipping and that they have strong personal
and trade links to tribes in Al Ahsa region. The Ottoman documents also put
forth that Qatar and Bahrain were two separate districts governed by their own
rulers.

The region has been an arena of contention
between the Ottomans and the British between early 1800s and 1913. After the
British forces controlled Bahrain, Qatar has been more central to Ottoman
policies. Despite its weakness, Ottomans have carried out time consuming negotiations
with the British for not to lose Qatar.

As a result of these efforts, Ottomans did
not relinquish Qatar in favour of the British. The agreement was inked only
after the local administering of Qatar was secured. The agreement also
stipulated that the British controlled Bahrain would not interfere in the
internal affairs of Qatar. It is obvious that Ottomans urged to keep Qatar’s independent
identity. Ottomans also worked hard to establish a running state system in
Qatar before they leave.

As widely recognized by historians, a very
important fact about our common history is that Qatari rulers and Sheikh Jassim
in particular, never abandoned Qatar’s will to the British or any other third
party at the expense of Ottomans, contrary to other regional leaders.

I would like to bring to your attention a report
by the Commander of Turkish forces in Qatar which shed light to the last days
of Ottomans in Qatar. Written on 25 April 1914, the report confirmed British
propaganda throughout the tribes that Qatar and Al Ahsa were abandoned by the Ottomans.
This was explicitly violating the agreement of 1913. The Commander’s report
also mentioned that Sheikh Jassim told his sons just before his death on August
1914, not to expel Ottoman soldiers from Qatar.

At the last days of the Ottoman Empire,
this truehearted Qatari stance was priceless for Turks. I believe this has not
been forgotten and will always be remembered.

Dear Guests,

I have talked pretty much on the historical
background of our relations, but I believe that young minds of Qatar should
know that the history firmly connects us to each other. Moreover, understanding
this common history is also significant to fully comprehend the evolving
dynamics between our countries today.

Having such a distinguished background,
cooperation between Turkey and Qatar is rapidly developing.

Politically, we have been enjoying an
unbreakable relation. Our leaders have proved capable of standing together in
the face of events unfolding in our region.

It is important to know that Qatar and
Turkey are working for the benefit of this region. We believe that the region’s
problems could only be solved with developing regional schemes for those problems.
Our joint efforts aim to transform this volatile region into a basin of peace
and stability. Thus, our expanding cooperation, as two crucial players of the
region, has an ever growing importance.

Our political cooperation is also reflected
in high level visits. President Erdoğan visited Qatar in September 2014, which
we deem as his first visit to abroad after being elected as the President. He
also visited Qatar in January and December 2013 when he was Prime Minister. HH
the Emir Sheikh Tamim visited Turkey in July 2014 for a working visit and in
August 2014 for attending Presidential handover ceremony. Ministers of Foreign
Affairs also paid a number of visits to each other, besides frequently meeting
in international occasions.

Economic relations are of greater
significance given the notable growth and dynamism demonstrated by the two
countries. But on economic relations, I may say that we still have a lot to do.

Our trade figures are well below the
potential we have. Trade volume was 858 million Dollars in 2011, 1 billion 240
million Dollars in 2012. However in 2013 we could not keep the momentum and the
trade turnover fell to 769 million Dollars.

On the other hand, I am proud to see
Turkish construction companies going from strength to strength in Qatar. Total
amount of construction projects assumed by Turkish companies in Qatar has
exceeded 15 billion Dollars. In many buildings and infrastructural facilities
that were established for easing the life of Qataris, have Turkish capital and
know-how behind. Some of the striking projects that involved Turkish firms are “Museum
of Islamic Arts”, “Qatar National Convention Center”, “Hamad International
Airport”, “Sidra Hospital”, “Salwa Road”, “Doha Metro” and likewise. I hope
this cooperation will gain further momentum in the years to come.

We gladly observe that Qatari companies are
also eager to enter Turkish markets. We have opportunities in Turkey in energy,
banking, finance, tourism, agriculture, real estate and health. In all these
sectors, we are trying to have Qatari investments in Turkey.

Economic ties are important to have a
stable, strong and long term cooperation. So, empowering the current status of
relations between the capital circles of our countries will remain at the focus
of Turkish-Qatari bilateral relations.

It is for sure that the expanding political
and economic relations will further consolidate ties at grassroots level.

Turkish community in Qatar is already
contributing to Qatar’s society and economy in the role of business holders,
professionals and academicians.

We are happy to see that greater number of
Qataris visit Turkey each year, an indicator of growing human to human
contacts. Last year more than 18 thousands Qataris visited Turkey for tourism
and trade purposes.

I believe we have to institutionalize our
relations in the social and cultural sphere. To that end, we are working hard
to open up a Yunus Emre Turkish Cultural Center in Qatar. When opened, the
Center will give Turkish classes, teach Turkish arts and music, and organize
special events. We also hope to see a Qatari cultural center in Turkey.

On the cultural front, it is very important
to note that 2015 will be celebrated as the Turkish-Qatari Year of Culture. On
the occasion of the year of culture, we would like to leave a notable
impression by displaying historical and modern aspects of Turkish culture and
we would be glad to see Qatari culture in Turkey as well.

An important part of human to human
contacts is education. It could be another area of cooperation between Turkey
and Qatar.

We have great universities and institutes
in Turkey. More than 26 thousands foreign students are being educated in
Turkish universities. So, I would also like to invite my Qatari brothers and
sisters to our universities for their undergraduate and graduate studies. My
Embassy is ready to give any assistance on that.

Distinguished Guests,

Taking this opportunity, let me say a few
words regarding critical regional issues like Syria, Palestine and the threat
posed by terrorism.

In all these issues, Turkey and Qatar have
similar ideas and working closely in cooperation.

Allow me to spend a minute on Syria. As
Turkey’s gate to the Middle East, Syria is now in disaster. Hundreds of
thousands of people were killed and unfortunately the efforts of the
international community have yet to bear fruit. Turkey is directly exposed to
threats from Syria. There is a grave humanitarian crisis in this country, millions
of people lost their houses and are internally displaced, millions of others
are refugees. Turkey hosts more than 1.6 million Syrians and the spent almost 5
billion Dollars so far for their needs. Turkey is determined to continue its
open-door policy to Syrians, due to humanitarian considerations.

We are now witnessing DAEŞ, an
ultra-extremist group and a by-product of the vacuum of authority in Syria, casting
its shadow not only over Syria and Iraq, but also to Turkey, Europe and the
Gulf states. DAEŞ is a terrorist organization threatening peace and security in
the region. Turkey, as a country that suffered a lot from terrorism, supports
this coalition against DAEŞ and we believe that air operations should continue.
However, eradicating DAEŞ would require a more comprehensive approach.
Attacking DAEŞ only in Iraq and only through air operations is highly likely to
fail in its objectives. In a quick word, as long as the regime in Damascus
stays there, we will have the risk of being exposed to security threats
emanated from Syria.

As Turkey, we believe that Asad had lost
its legitimacy and should not be ruling the country. Syria needs a true
political transition to this end. This could only be achieved with the concrete
engagement of the international community. Initiatives, targeting only
terrorist groups but not the regime will likely to fall at the end of the day,
because the root cause would still be there.

I would like to thank to Qatari authorities
because of the political, diplomatic and material support they are giving to
Turkey about Syria. I would particularly like to express my gratitude to Her
Highness Sheikha Mozah who was lately in Turkey and visited refugee camps in
Gaziantep. This was a crucial and timely initiative that brought up the
question of Syrian refugees onto the international agenda.

Palestine is another deep-rooted conflict
of the region. Turkey and Qatar are supporting all Palestinian factions and
encouraging them toward Palestinian unity. We believe that a just solution
requires a Palestinian state within borders of 1967 and Jerusalem as its
capital.

Dear Participants,

I tried to paint you a picture of how
Turkish-Qatari relations look alike in my eyes. Hope you all found this
presentation useful.

It is my privilege to serve as the
Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey in Doha, at a time our relations are
gaining such great momentum. It is my number one priority to ensure that this
relationship between our governments and peoples continue its upward trend.

On behalf of the Embassy of the Republic of
Turkey in Qatar and myself, I extend my best wishes to all of you.

I will do my
best to reply your questions if you have any.

Thank you very
much.

Pazar - Perşembe

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