04/07/2020 – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and high-ranking officials from his cabinet visited regional allies in Doha and Tripoli in the past two days, strengthening security ties with both governments.
Erdoğan and his regular entourage – the president’s son-in-law and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, Defence Minister Hulusi Akar, and head of intelligence services Hakan Fidan – met with Qatari officials on Thursday, in a visit The Arab Weekly’s sources called a “tax collection mission” reminiscent of the Ottoman Empire’s dealings with its former Arab colonies for centuries.
A Turkish government statement prior to the visit said that Erdoğan and Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani were set to discuss all aspects of “relations between the two friendly and brotherly countries”. However, AW sources and analysts said the Turkish president is pressuring Qatar to finance his military campaigns in Syria and Libya, as well as his shows of strength in the eastern Mediterranean.
Erdoğan was trying to warn the Al Thani family that Turkish military bases in Doha could soon become Qatar’s only protection from hostile regional powers such as Saudi Arabia, especially since the United States is weighing an option to downscale its base there, said Ahval Arabic editor Ghassan Ibrahim.
There are apparent Qatari concerns that the United States intends to fulfil its threat to reduce its military presence at Doha’s Al-Udeid air base.
The official Qatari news agency stated that, in a meeting on Thursday, Al Thani and Erdoğan discussed « the strategic relations » between the two countries and ways to support and enhance them in various fields, especially regarding economic, investment and commercial cooperation, energy, and defence “in a way that realises the common interests of the two countries and of the two brotherly peoples”.
A day after the Gulf visit, Akar and Turkey’s Chief of General Staff Yaşar Güler flew to the Libyan capital Tripoli to review Ankara’s security cooperation agreement with the United Nations-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), according to pro-government newspaper Daily Sabah.
Turkey and Qatar support the GNA in its battle against the eastern-bases forces of General Khalifa Haftar, who is backed by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Russia, among others. Analysts say Turkey’s military contributions were vital in helping the GNA reverse the gains made by Haftar’s 14-month offensive to capture Tripoli.
« I want you to know that we are with you today and tomorrow, and will do whatever is required for our Libyan brothers under the instructions of our president, » said Akar, who met with the GNA’s Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj during his tour of military sites.
Jordanian weekly Al-Hadath reported that Akar and al-Sarraj had signed a defence pact which would allow Turkey to extend its direct military intervention in Libya.
Until now, Turkey’s military provisions for the GNA had reportedly been limited to intelligence and logistical support, drone and artillery strikes, supplying arms, and sending thousands of Syrian mercenaries to fight alongside its forces.