Cameron vies to keep the Gulf onside

Updated 11 December 2012
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Cameron vies to keep the Gulf onside

British Prime Minister David Cameron’s recent trip to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates was replete with the traditional photo opportunities and mutual defense and security proclamations, but it was far more than a courtesy call on Britain’s long-time Gulf allies. Cameron was clear in the runup to his Gulf trip that he had come to tout for investment in British-made fighter jets, saying openly that security for both Saudi Arabia and the UAE was “important for our security” while potential deals involving dozens of BAE System’s Typhoon fighter jets was “vital for British jobs.”
But a month on, with no high-profile announcements on actual deals forthcoming, the question remains of how Cameron’s second trip to the Gulf as prime minister should be seen in the paradigm of the new Middle East. Moreover, what role the UK sees Saudi Arabia and the UAE playing in its economic and political future.
“The UK has seen the Gulf region as a long-term strategic ally for decades, but the recent Conservative government appears to have grasped the importance of the Gulf more than its predecessors,” said David Jones, head of RUSI Qatar. “There has been a discernible escalation of British interest in and support of Gulf states since William Hague became Foreign Secretary. (Cameron’s) trip is the latest manifestation of this increased support.” The increased support on a diplomatic levels has not been matched in the public perception in the UK, where the Arab Spring has prompted a new awareness of the region and more searching questions about Britain’s relationship with the GCC states.
The UAE was particularly upset after the Guardian published a critical editorial written by a former director of the country’s Al Islah movement, while Riyadh has been angered by a British parliamentary committee inquiry into the UK’s relationship with Saudi Arabia. Cameron is well aware that such spats have the potential to cost the UK dearly. British exports to the GCC were worth an estimated £17 billion in 2011 — with arms deals a major component. “The UK’s calls for reform in support of the Arab Spring, while modulated to avoid a clash with its conservative Gulf partners, have nevertheless created tensions,” said Christopher S. Chivvis, senior political scientist at RAND.
“For economic and security reasons, however, the UK cannot afford an open break with its Gulf partners ... It needs to ensure it has access to oil development opportunities and defense markets.
Cameron also wants the Gulf’s support over Syria, Chivvis said, where the British leader is hoping that the international community can play a bigger role. On the way back from the Gulf, Cameron stopped off at refugee camps on the Jordanian border, seeking to make more public his backing for an end to the civil war and the replacement of Bashar Assad.
“It does appear that Britain and other NATO allies are moving closer to supporting some form of military intervention in Syria, so it is almost certain that coordinating the regional and international approaches to the Syrian crisis was one objective of the trip,” Chivvis said.
RUSI’s Jones added that “part of the rationale for the trip was doubtless to discuss Syria,” although he is more skeptical as to whether Britain or its allies will act there: “While the international community is eager to do something actually doing something is very different,” he said. It remains true that over the last four weeks there has been little action either on business or political fronts. Syria’s war continues with no new initiatives or action proposed by Britain or anybody else. Jones urges patience.
“As a direct result of the latest trip we are yet to see any significant deals made. However, things do not necessarily happen that quickly. It is a part of a longer-term policy of boosting UK support in the region. I am sure that we will see some output in the coming months from the visit particularly in Oman, the UAE, and KSA,” he said.


Erdogan declares victory in Turkish presidential election

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan waves to supporters as he leaves his residence in Istanbul, Turkey on Sunday. (REUTERS)
Updated 40 min 18 sec ago
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Erdogan declares victory in Turkish presidential election

  • Erdogan has just under 53 percent in the presidential poll while Ince, of the secular Republican People’s Party (CHP), was on 31 percent, state-run Anadolu news agency said, based on a 96 percent vote count
  • The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) was polling 11 percent, well over the 10 percent minimum threshold needed to win 46 seats, which would make it the second largest opposition party in the new chamber

ISTANBUL: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday declared victory in a tightly-contested presidential election, extending his 15-year grip on power in the face of a revitalized opposition.
Turkish voters had for the first time cast ballots for both president and parliament in the snap polls, with Erdogan looking for a first round knockout and an overall majority for his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
The stakes in this election are particularly high as the new president is the first to enjoy enhanced powers under a new constitution agreed in an April 2017 referendum strongly backed by Erdogan.
Erdogan was on course to defeat his nearest rival Muharrem Ince with more than half the vote without needing a second round, initial results showed.
“The unofficial results of the elections have become clear. According to these... I have been entrusted by the nation with the task and duties of the presidency,” Erdogan said at his Istanbul residence.
He added that the alliance led by the AKP had won the majority in parliament.
Erdogan has just under 53 percent in the presidential poll while Ince, of the secular Republican People’s Party (CHP), was on 31 percent, state-run Anadolu news agency said, based on a 96 percent vote count.
The figures could yet change as final ballot boxes are opened.
But celebrations were already beginning outside Erdogan’s residence in Istanbul and AKP headquarters in Ankara, with crowds of flag-waving supporters, AFP correspondents said.
Trailing were Meral Aksener of the nationalist (Iyi) Good Party with over seven percent and Selahattin Demirtas of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) with almost eight percent.
A count of almost over 95 percent for the parliamentary election also showed that Erdogan’s AKP — along with its Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) allies — were well ahead and set for an overall majority.
The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) was polling 11 percent, well over the 10 percent minimum threshold needed to win 46 seats, which would make it the second largest opposition party in the new chamber.
Turnout in the presidential election was almost 88 percent, according to the figures published by Anadolu.

Erdoogan had faced an energetic campaign by Ince, who has rivalled the incumbent’s charisma and crowd-pulling on the campaign trail, as well as a strong opposition alliance in the legislative poll.
Ince vowed to spend the night at the headquarters of Turkey’s election authority in Ankara to ensure a fair count and urged supporters to stay in polling stations until the final vote was counted.
The CHP said it had recorded violations in particular in the southeastern province of Sanliurfa, although Erdogan insisted, after voting himself, there was no major problem.
“I will protect your rights. All we want is a fair competition. Have no fear and don’t believe in demoralizing reports,” Ince said after polls closed.
Several world leaders supportive of Erdogan, including Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, called to congratulate him on his “victory,” the presidency said.

Erdogan has overseen historic change in Turkey since his Islamic-rooted ruling party first came to power in 2002 after years of secular domination. But critics accuse the Turkish strongman, 64, of trampling on civil liberties and autocratic behavior.
Although Erdogan dominated airtime on a pliant mainstream media, Ince finished his campaign with eye-catching mass rallies, including a mega meeting in Istanbul on Saturday attended by hundreds of thousands of people.
The president has for the last two years ruled under a state of emergency imposed in the wake of the 2016 failed coup, with tens of thousands arrested in an unprecedented crackdown which cranked up tensions with the West.
Erdogan, whose mastery of political rhetoric is acknowledged even by critics, has won a dozen elections but campaigned against the backdrop of increasing economic woes.
Inflation has zoomed well into double digits — with popular concern over sharp rises in staples like potatoes and onions — while the Turkish lira has lost some 25 percent in value against the US dollar this year.
But the opposition has lambasted the uneven nature of the poll, which saw state-controlled television ignore Ince’s giant rally in Istanbul on the eve of the election.
And in a situation labelled as blatant unfairness by activists, the HDP’s Demirtas has campaigned from a prison cell after his November 2016 arrest on charges of links to outlawed Kurdish militants.
After casting his ballot in his jail in the northwestern region of Edirne, Demirtas wrote on Twitter: “I wish that everyone uses their vote for the sake of the future and democracy of the country.”