Qatar comes to Turkey’s ‘rescue’ amid public outcry

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan meets with Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani in Ankara, Turkey, November 26, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 27 November 2020

Qatar comes to Turkey’s ‘rescue’ amid public outcry

  • The bilateral ties have sparked a public outcry, with people criticizing the sale of strategic assets to the Gulf nation
  • Turkey transferred 10 percent of shares in the Istanbul stock exchange to the Qatar Investment Authority

ANKARA: Turkey and Qatar on Thursday signed investment deals worth millions of dollars, as part of the developing relationship between the two countries.
The external funding will help to alleviate Turkey’s currency crisis, which has seen the lira lose about 40 percent of its value this year due to depleted foreign reserves.
But the bilateral ties have sparked a public outcry, with people criticizing the sale of strategic assets to the Gulf nation. 
Turkey transferred 10 percent of shares in the Istanbul stock exchange to the Qatar Investment Authority, and the Turkish Wealth Fund’s stake in the stock exchange dropped to 80.6 percent as a result.
Qatar, having already poured $15 billion into currency swap deals, has also bought the transfer of 42 percent of shares in one of Turkey’s biggest shopping malls, Istinye Park on Qatar Street in Istanbul, for $1 billion. It has also pledged to invest in the Istanbul Golden Horn marina project.
Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party, criticized the government for signing the deals with Qatar, saying that even the sale of the presidential palace to the Gulf country would come as no surprise.
“Where does your love for Qatar come from? Everything is being sold,” he said during a TV program on Friday.
Critics see the Qatari investment money as an alarming trend for the Turkish economy, dubbing the agreements as the “best Black Friday deal.”
According to Hakan Kara, an economics professor at Bilkent University in Ankara and former chief economist at the Central Bank of Turkey, concentrated funding from a single source mostly driven by personal relationships was at odds with the Turkish government’s previous emphasis on “the need to reduce the dependence on foreign capital.”
“History shows that such reliance on personal ties may bring compromises in many other areas,” he told Arab News.
The agreements will bring $300 million of capital flows to Turkey. Total investments from Qatar to Turkey have reached $22 billion.
Dr. Robert C. Mogielnicki, a resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington D.C., said while Qatari economic support for Turkey had been forthcoming in recent years, there were also political dimensions to these initiatives.
“A substantial increase in Qatari equity capital in Turkey has offset declining Saudi and Emirati investments over the years,” he told Arab News. “Qatari investments into Turkey spiked from 2015-2016, suggesting that the strengthening of this economic partnership preceded the 2017 Gulf rift and likely had its roots in the earlier 2014 regional dispute.”
Although securing new investment deals with Qatar is important for coping with the difficult economic times that Turkey is experiencing, experts have noted the need for economic diversification.
“Turkey still needs to expand and deepen its economic ties with other countries. Qatari-Turkish ties are but one of many linkages needed to support Turkey’s massive economy. A big risk for Turkey is that the politicization of its trade and investment deals today limits future opportunities,” Mogielnicki added.
According to Timothy Ash, a London-based senior emerging markets strategist at Bluebay Asset Management, the recent deals are part of the long-running strong ties between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s administration and Qatar.
“Although Qatar has proved to be an active and dynamic investor in Turkey, I think that the $15 billion in financing is not a game changer,” he told Arab News. “They are useful but still pale into insignificance compared to Turkey’s annual $200 billion external financing needs. Doha pledged $15 billion in support to Turkey in 2018. That was supposed to comprise $5 billion in swaps, $5 billion in loans and $5 billion in investments. In the end, the loans were converted to a total of $10 billion in swaps and I think what we are seeing this week is the investment angle rolled out. I don’t think this is new money.”


Egypt, UAE resume first Qatar flights since 2017

Updated 18 January 2021

Egypt, UAE resume first Qatar flights since 2017

  • An EgyptAir flight took off from Doha to Cairo, making it the first commercial flight in three and a half years between both countries
  • It was followed shortly after by the arrival of an Air Arabia flight from Sharjah in the UAE

DOHA: The first direct flights since 2017 between Qatar and its former rivals Egypt and the UAE took to the skies on Monday, following the end of a regional crisis.
Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) joined Saudi Arabia and Bahrain in cutting ties with Qatar in June 2017, accusing it of being too close to Iran and of backing Islamic extremists, charges Doha denies.
The quartet agreed to heal the rift at a Gulf summit on January 5 in Saudi Arabia, after a flurry of diplomatic activity by outgoing US President Donald Trump’s administration.
The first commercial flight from Qatar to Egypt in three and a half years, an EgyptAir service to Cairo, took off from windswept Doha airport.
It was followed shortly after by the arrival of an Air Arabia flight from Sharjah in the UAE.
The resumption of flights from Doha to Cairo will simplify travel for the large contingent of Egyptians living in Qatar.
As many as 300,000 Egyptians call Qatar home, according to official statistics, but many were unable to travel home during the crisis.
In May 2020, frustrated Egyptians protested outside the compound housing Egypt’s then-empty embassy.
Following the demonstration, 18 repatriation flights operated via neutral Oman to comply with Cairo’s ban on direct air traffic.
A Qatar Airways plane was due to also make the trip to Cairo later Monday.
Flights between Doha and Saudi Arabia, which has also opened its land border to Qatar, resumed on January 11.
The row complicated regional travel, divided families and raised costs faced by Qatari businesses.
Mustafa Ahmed, 38, an Egyptian technical engineer, said he was “very happy.”
“With direct flights, life will be easier, especially for families and children, avoiding the torment of changing airports and planes and waiting for hours for transit flights,” he told AFP.
Egyptians in Qatar work in a number of sectors including education, health care and engineering.
Thousands of Qatar’s majority-expatriate workforce, however, have lost their jobs as a result of a downturn caused by the coronavirus epidemic.