The crisis unfolding in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is bad news for a host of countries around the world with vested interests in all six Arab Gulf monarchies. Turkey certainly sees the Qatar crisis as deeply unsettling and troubling. Turkish officials have, thus far, stood by Doha, which has established a ‘special relationship’ with Ankara that strengthened significantly after the “Arab Spring” uprisings of 2011.
The Syrian crisis has severely hindered Turkey’s agenda in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and highlighted Ankara’s limited capacity to influence events in the Arab world. At the same time, Turkey has started making foreign policy forays in East Africa. As Turkey seeks a more prominent and influential role in the global arena, it has come to see Qatar as its best friend in the region. Both countries placed bets on Islamists amid political openings across MENA states in 2011 and coordinated closely in Syria while taking similar positions on Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi’s ouster in 2013.
The increasingly chilly relationship between Turkey and its Western allies has also shaped Ankara and Doha’s deepening ties. US and European officials have grown increasingly critical of Turkey’s domestic political environment, especially in the aftermath of this year’s constitutional referendum and the question of the Syrian Kurds’ role in the struggle against the Islamic State. Turkey’s disagreements with several of its fellow NATO members have further prompted Ankara to look for new partnerships to counter-balance Ankara’s dependence on its traditional Western allies. The main geopolitical beneficiary of Turkey’s pivot to the East has been Russia. But China, Iran, and Pakistan, as well as Qatar and other GCC members, factor into Ankara’s plans to diversify its alliances.
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