Military agreements strengthen the Turkish-Qatari axis

The relationship shared between Turkey and Qatar has emerged as being one of the most relevant and productive co-operations in the Middle East during recent years. Their comparable approaches to the world system, soft power strategies and visions about the Middle East are what have assisted in the progress of a strong alliance between both states.

Regional interests regarding things such as the unrest in Syria and the change of power in Egypt after the coup of Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi are issues that concern Ankara and Doha in the same way. Similar outlooks have also been expressed on the situation in Gaza, which was especially apparent during the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict when the US Secretary of State invited Qatar and Turkey to broker a cease-fire agreement between Hamas and Israel. 

Relations between Turkey and Qatar have been visibly good for a long while, but entered a new phase during December 2014 with the signing of a comprehensive military agreement that has allowed Turkish troops back into Qatar after having left the peninsula towards the end of the Ottoman era in 1915. 

In order to speed up the agreed military cooperation with Qatar, the Turkish General Assembly’s Foreign Affairs Committee announced another agreement between both states on 4th March 2015, calling for military training, the development of military industries, joint military exercises and additional co-operative efforts.

The agreements allow both countries to deploy forces in each other’s territory, exchange operational training experiences and cooperate in the defence industry. Turkey has even agreed to set up a military base in Qatar, marking its first ever overseas and joint military exercise. Both countries now use each others seaports, airports, air space and military facilities, and are now also sharing intelligence to work together in countering terrorism.

The alliance is enabling Qatar to boost its defence industry capacity, while enhancing its military experience, and also diversifying its military partners in the region. The past couple of years have already seen more Gulf students educated in Turkish military schools, indicating the increasing regional prestige of the Turkish army and the benefits Qatar will gain from receiving Turkish military training.

The agreements will be valid for 10 years and state that, “any dispute that may occur during the implementation phase or in interpretation of this agreement shall be settled through consultations and negotiations between the parties” and that, “they shall not apply to any national or international tribunal or third party”.

Some have argued that the catalysts behind the military agreements were shared intentions of preserving both Turkey and Qatar’s regional influences, which could be harmed by conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen, as well as the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. It has also been suggested that the military agreements were driven by both states’ ambition to balance Iran’s assertiveness in the Gulf.

Nevertheless, after putting all assumptions aside, the military agreements between Turkey and Qatar certainly highlight their commitment to maintaining a strong alliance and providing a legal foundation for the implementation of their bilateral relations. With cooperation on military education and training, both countries’ armed forces are able to interact with each other frequently and coordinate continually.