New deal between Turkey and Saudi Arabia

This free access article allows you to discover the relevance and usefulness of the Nouvel Economist. Your registration for the free 24-hour trial will allow you to access all articles on the site.

Middle Eastern Maelstrom,
Ardavan Amir-Aslani

In twenty years in power, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has always been able to show that he is a pragmatic political beast, able to adapt his position to the realities of his country, especially a year before a high -risk presidential election.

“The current economic situation in Turkey is serious. Inflation has exceeded 60% and the currency has experienced a sharp depreciation, hurting more Turks”

However, the current economic situation in Turkey is dire. Inflation has exceeded 60% and the currency is suffering a sharp depreciation in value, impoverishing more Turks. The international context and the war in Ukraine, which troubled the energy market, therefore affected Turkey, which imports its gas from Russia. Given its relative neutrality in the conflict and a reliance in favor of its Ukrainian partner, Turkey would naturally have to access other sources of supply, as it would have virtually no energy at all. The United Arab Emirates for gas, Saudi Arabia for oil, stand as obvious interlocutors. Due to economic and financial need, the Turkish president made his first official visit to Saudi Arabia in five years at the end of April, marking a change in relations between Turkey and the Wahhabi kingdom.

From the Ottoman Empire, the story of distant relations

Erdogan really presented it as a testimony to a “common desire to open a new era of cooperation between the two brotherly countries, with historical, cultural and human relations”. A strange statement given by Turkey that unequal relations in the Arab-Muslim world, are precisely due to historical and cultural relations. No Ottoman sultan has made since the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, even though Turkey has been the guardian of the holy places of Islam for four centuries. The Arabian Peninsula has always been a zone of turmoil for the Ottoman Empire, and this was especially so with its reconquest of the Hejaz and the holy sites, confiscated by the founders of the first Saudi kingdom, permanently damaging relations between of the Turks and Arabs.

“The Arabian Peninsula has always been a place of turmoil for the Ottoman Empire, and it was especially the reconquest of the Hejaz and the holy sites, confiscated by the founders of the first Saudi kingdom, that permanently damaged relations. between the Turks and the Arabs. ”

It actually ended in murder by beheading Abdallah Ibn Saud, the ancestor of the Saud who is now in power, a family memory that has generated lasting resentment towards Istanbul. In contrast, the young Atatürk Republic born in 1923 remained distrustful and a source of contempt for the Arabs, whose uprisings contributed to the breakup of the Ottoman Empire. This distrust also explains Mustapha Kemal’s desire to erase traces of Arab-Muslim culture from his new Turkey. But paradoxically, the Turkish Republic maintains good diplomatic relations with new kingdoms or Arab states, including the Saudi kingdom, but without real closeness, Kemalist secularism is not good for Muslim theocracy.

The threat to the democratic “model of Turkey”

Through his visit, Erdogan also assured that he wants to promote “peace, dialogue and diplomacy” in the region. However, its foreign policy in the Middle East could not be further from this, especially since 2011 and the Arab Spring, the date on which relations between Turkey and the oil monarchies in the Persian Gulf strained. damaged. Inspired by the neo-Ottoman ideology of the Islamo-conservative AKP party, Ankara’s regional ambition and its desire to present itself as a counter-model of an ideal and democratic Muslim society, inspired by Islamic politics in Muslim Brotherhood, concerned in Saudi Arabia. , fearing that its position as leader of the Sunni Muslim world would be dangerously challenged by the “Turkish model”. So the Saudis and Emiratis have been united for a decade against the Turkey-Qatar axis, the two camps fighting by proxy, especially Syria and Libya.

Realpoltik with Saudi Arabia

However, amid a more expensive regional strategy for a country with a weak economy, and the possibility of bailing out the state coffers and regaining social peace in Turkey, Erdogan seems to be making his choice, at least temporarily. His visit to Saudi Arabia, which is to deepen bilateral cooperation between the two countries in defense, energy, finance and food security, proves this. But this continuation of dialogue cannot be without counterparts: the arrival of the Turkish president is actually conditioned on sending Riyadh to file for Jamal Khashoggi’s assassination.

“With his“ normalization ”against the“ concession ”agreement, Erdogan has already secured the lifting of the unofficial boycott imposed by Riyadh on Turkish imports, as well as investment and currency exchange agreements.

The assassination of the Saudi journalist in the middle of Istanbul in 2018 has cooled relations between the two countries, the Turkish president has increased criticism against Saudi Arabia and thus justified his opponent in the self-proclaimed leader of Sunni Muslim world. Even if Erdogan declared after this case that there was no justice in Saudi Arabia, the Turkish judicial authorities finally decided to transfer the file to Riyadh, which at the real cost of preventing its treatment and the question of the Crown Prince Mohammed Ben Salman, is accused of sponsoring the murder. This is the highest point in a case that has already been closed without justice. With his “normalization” against the “concession” agreement, Erdogan has already secured the lifting of the unofficial boycott imposed by Riyadh on Turkish imports, as well as investment and currency exchange agreements.

Does the election strategy pay for Erdogan?

Going back to its principles for the option price again, is this a worthwhile bet? It is actually possible to imagine that Riyadh will not stop on such a good path, and will make new demands on Ankara to provide its financial support, especially with regard to the Turkish president’s adventurism in the Middle East. Erdogan will have to engage in a difficult balancing action to preserve a fundamental element of the AKP’s program and maintain its electoral base link, while reassuring new international partners. Admittedly, this is not the first time the Turkish president has changed his language according to circumstances. But it remains to be seen if it will be paid for again in 2023.

Leave a Comment