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Erdoğan's visit to Qatar and developments in Gaza

Erdoğan's visit to Qatar and developments in Gaza

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan paid an official visit to Qatar where he held a bilateral meeting with Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and attended the 9th meeting of the Türkiye-Qatar High-Level Strategic Committee and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan paid an official visit to Qatar where he held a bilateral meeting with Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and attended the 9th meeting of the Türkiye-Qatar High-Level Strategic Committee and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit. Having concluded 87 agreements in previous committee meetings, the two countries reached additional deals during this week’s visit, in which six Cabinet ministers participated, to take the bilateral relations to the next level.
Let us recall that Türkiye supported Qatar during the 2017 blockade – which elevated their relations to a “strategic” level from a regional perspective. When Türkiye and Qatar subsequently pursued normalization with the Gulf states, that development did not weaken their bilateral relations. Quite the contrary, the two countries carefully preserve their strategic partnership in many policy areas.
Obviously, the situation in Gaza was the top item on the agenda of Erdoğan’s meeting with Al Thani as well as the 44th Summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council, where Türkiye remains a strategic dialogue partner.

Türkiye, Qatar's joint efforts in resolving Gaza conflict

Türkiye and Qatar have been working hard to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Whereas Doha successfully brokered a temporary cease-fire, Ankara actively took diplomatic steps to force Israel to agree to a cease-fire as well as to facilitate a lasting cease-fire. The Extraordinary Joint Summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and Arab League, which was held in Riyadh on Nov. 11, mandated the Foreign Ministers of Türkiye, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar and Nigeria to take international action to stop the war in Gaza and achieve lasting peace. Speaking to reporters on his flight back from Dubai, President Erdoğan stressed that the group of seven foreign ministers, including Türkiye’s Hakan Fidan, which was formed at the OIC's Riyadh Summit, held meetings in London, Paris, Barcelona and New York, which yielded “very significant” results: “We persuaded our counterparts to not discuss Gaza in the absence of a two-state solution. We have witnessed that some European countries came to understand our position and began to embrace our arguments thanks to our joint pressure.” Moreover, the Turkish president said that the “greatest strategic achievement” was OIC members deciding to institutionalize the principle of “the peoples of the region to take ownership for their own problems” – which Türkiye has long advocated – and uniting around common policies. As the temporary cease-fire ended, Israel killed over 700 Palestinians within three to four days of resuming its heavy bombardment of Gaza. Israel suffered many casualties in ground operations and the “unconditional support” that it enjoyed thus far is about to expire. Specifically, Western governments are concerned about Israel’s lack of an exit strategy and are increasingly inclined to pressure Benjamin Netanyahu’s government not to prolong the fighting. First and foremost, that trend emerged out of the Western public’s backlash against the killing of civilians and the resulting mass protests. Secondly, the arguments presented by the group of seven foreign ministers had a certain impact. Last but not least, Israel has failed to offer any solution except killing Gazans or forcing them out of their ancestral lands.

Western stance

For the record, neither Washington nor European governments want Gaza to remain a conflict zone for many months and years. Such a development could create a new wave of radicalization in the Middle East and play into the hands of Russia and China against the backdrop of great power competition. Another major risk would be Israeli officials, who dare talk about targeting Hamas leaders in Türkiye and Qatar, to adopt a more aggressive policy on a regional scale. Hence the criticism of Israel’s policy toward Gaza by Western policymakers. The following examples attest to that fact: French President Emmanuel Macron held a press conference in the margins of the COP28 Summit in Dubai to make the case that it was impossible to completely eliminate Hamas and that the war would have to continue for a decade if Israel were to try and reach that goal. The killing of civilians through systematic and constant bombardment can no longer be hidden behind the argument that Israel has a right to defend itself and fight terrorism – not even in the West. Secondly, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin made the following statement at the Reagan National Defense Forum in California: “In this kind of a fight, the center of gravity is the civilian population. And if you drive them into the arms of the enemy, you replace a tactical victory with a strategic defeat.” It goes without saying that such indirect and strategic statements won’t stop Israel from bombing Khan Yunis in southern Gaza. The West’s timid call on Israel to refrain from civilian casualties is hypocritical, despicable and shameful. One cannot help but agree with Erdoğan’s point: “The United Nations, which was established to protect global peace and security, cannot even defend its own staff against Israel’s barbaric acts. The glorious ideologies, conventions, declarations and principles, which were proudly placed before us by individuals, organizations and countries siding with Israel, whether by endorsing its oppression or keeping silent, have become completely meaningless.” Still, it is crucial to keep focusing on diplomacy, mass protests and boycotts to stop the Israeli aggression. President Erdoğan, who attempted to mobilize the international community for Gaza’s sake at COP28, the 39th Ministerial Session of the OIC’s Standing Committee for Economic and Commercial Cooperation (COMCEC) and the 44th GCC Summit, will resume his efforts over the next days and weeks. [Daily Sabah, December 06, 2023]