Turkey and Qatar strengthened their relations in a recent agreement in which Qatar’s coast guard pledged to purchase 17 high-speed boats from Antalya-based Ares Shipyard Ltd.
The agreement was signed March 26th at the fourth Doha International Maritime Defence Exhibition and Conference. According to the deal, Qatar will buy two 46-metre vessels, 10 33-metre vessels and five 23-metre boats.
“We can say that the contract is the biggest one for the military ships category in the region,” said Kerim Kalafatoglu, managing director of Ares Shipyard.
Ares Business Development Manager Stephen Layton told Southeast European Times (SETimes) that the deal will create a number of jobs at the company.
Ares will be adapting designs of its existing boats to meet Qatar’s specifications and plans to deliver them within 56 months, he said.
Relations between Qatar and Turkey, which have become among the most stable in the Middle East, improved even further with the latest agreement, analysts told SETimes.
“This is a very significant achievement for Turkey’s defence sector,” said Maj. Gen. Armagan Kuloglu, who is retired from the Turkish armed forces.
Kuloglu told SETimes that the agreement would not only boost bilateral relations but also would open the doors to co-operation between Turkey and other countries in the region.
“Qatar’s order could be an example for other Gulf countries to give similar orders to Turkey,” he said.
Saban Kardas, the director of Ankara-based think tank Centre for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies (ORSAM), said, “We have been witnessing very close co-operation of the two countries in many areas for a long time.”
Ankara and Doha have pursued similar policies regarding international matters, particularly in the conflicts in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, and they followed joint conciliation efforts for the settlement of regional disputes, he said.
During the Arab Spring the two countries shared a similar point of view and acted together, Kardas said.
In addition to their co-operation in the international arena, Qatar takes the lead among other Gulf countries in developing economic and military relations with Turkey, Kuloglu said.
“Military Electronic Industries (Aselsan) and software and systems company Informatics and System House of Turkey (Havelsan) both have been working on joint projects in military software field,” Kuloglu said.
Kardas said the agreement between Turkey and Qatar should improve military relations.
“When a country buys a military system from abroad, it is inevitable that it would take trainings and participate in joint military exercises with that country,” he said.
Improved Turkey-Qatar relations
In a statement posted to its website, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said that “significant progress has been achieved in recent years with regards to the relations between Turkey and Qatar”.
Between 2008 and 2011, high-level visits between the two countries intensified, the ministry said.
“These visits have deepened and further developed the bilateral relations,” the statement said, adding that economically, Turkey has made it a priority to attract foreign investment and capital from Qatar.
In February, Qatar Minister of Economy and Trade Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim Al Thani said Qatari-Turkish ties are witnessing a major boom.
Growth in bilateral relations increased trade volume between the two countries to nearly $1 billion in 2013, he said at the conclusion of a Doha meeting of the Qatari-Turkish Committee for Economic and Technical Co-operation.
The Doha International Maritime Defence Exhibition and Conference drew representatives from 25 prominent Turkish firms, including Aselsan, Havelsan, Roketsan, Turkish Aerospace Industries, the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey, and Middle East Technical University.
Participants exhibited a variety of military products: tracked and wheeled armoured vehicles, specialised textiles, armaments and munitions, missiles and rocketry, advanced defence electronics, and products in the aerospace technology and naval shipbuilding fields.