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Turkey-Gulf Cooperation Council Relations

The new Turkey-GCC Strategic Dialogue is more evidence that the power in the Arab Middle East is gradually shifting east, from Egypt and the Levant to the Gulf. With their growing economic and financial resources, and increasing political clout, the GCC states are considered enticing partners by any measure. Turkey certainly recognizes this, and its relationship with the Gulf states is steadily expanding.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by Turkey and the GCC at their first ministerial summit in September of 2008 held in Jeddah. Although Turkey and the GCC consider the 2008 MOU to be the "launching point" for their strategic dialogue, the parties began meeting in 2005 in Manama, where they established a framework for a free trade agreement. The aim of this meeting was to "institutionalize" modalities of cooperation to promote stronger relations in the future.

The Turkey-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) High Level Strategic Dialogue held a Joint Ministerial Meeting held in Istanbul the 08 July 2009. The strategic dialogue underway is not between Turkey and the individual Gulf states, but between Turkey and the Gulf Cooperation Council. This could represent a structural weakness in the dialogue, unless the GCC is simply a convenient vehicle for organizing dialogues with the individual Gulf states.

The Turkey-GCC Strategic Dialogue is more evidence that the power in the Arab Middle East is gradually shifting east, from Egypt and the Levant to the Gulf. With their growing economic and financial resources, and increasing political clout, the GCC states are considered enticing partners by any measure. Turkey certainly recognizes this, and its relationship with the Gulf states is steadily expanding. the strategic dialogue underway is not between Turkey and the individual Gulf states, but between Turkey and the Gulf Cooperation Council. This could represent a structural weakness in the dialogue, unless the GCC is simply a convenient vehicle for orgaizing dialogues with the individual Gulf states.

The annual high-level meeting was mandated by the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by Turkey and the GCC at their first ministerial summit in September of 2008 held in Jeddah. Although Turkey and the GCC consider the 2008 MOU to be the "launching point" for their strategic dialogue, the parties began meeting in 2005 in Manama, where they established a framework for a free trade agreement.

Both Turkey and the GCC states believe their threat horizons are interdependent. At an official dinner for participants on 07 July 2009, Turkey's President Abdullah Gul declared that Turkey will contribute to security in the Gulf because the region is important to his country. That declaration elicited a very positive reaction from GCC members.

Notably, counter-terrorism cooperation received its own paragraph in the communique, separate from other security issues. This subject's status, which seems to reflect more advanced discussions, speaks to the immediate threat both Turkey and the GCC face from extremism. Turkey has amassed considerable counter-terrorism experience that would be of value to the GCC, while GCC states, especially Saudi Arabia, could share best practices with the Turks.

The GCC states see Turkey as a key supplier for diversifying food supplies, and they have inquired about the possibility of leasing "large tracts" of land in Turkey, or participating in joint ventures with Turkish companies, for cultivating crops -- particularly wheat and cereals.




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