Saudi-Turkish ties poised for giant leap, says expert

Updated 29 September 2016

Saudi-Turkish ties poised for giant leap, says expert

JEDDAH: A leading Turkish political analyst has described Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif’s visit to Ankara as “highly significant and extremely timely.” 
Speaking to Arab News from the Turkish capital, Sinem Cengiz, a Kuwaiti-born Turkish national specializing in Turkey’s relations with the Middle East and is currently press adviser at a diplomatic mission in Ankara, said the significance of the visit can be gauged from the fact that it is coming against the backdrop of a failed coup attempt by a small junta embedded in the Turkish Armed Forces against the Turkish government.
“This visit is being seen in Turkey by the government and the Turkish people as Saudi Arabia’s big endorsement of Ankara at a critical time,” she said.
“There is no doubt of the significance of the Saudi delegation’s visit to Turkey under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif,” she said. “The visit sends multiple messages. When Turkey experienced a bloody coup attempt on July 15, Saudi Arabia stood by the government and the people of Turkey. This was widely praised,” she said.
According to Cengiz, Saudi-Turkish strategic cooperation in all fields is very crucial to both sides. “Saudi Arabia and Turkey are two important countries in the Middle East. They are two crucial heavyweights. The cooperation between them is not limited to bilateral or economic ties, but includes cooperation in the fight against terrorism, especially in the Syrian context. This has been the case for the last five years.”
She said both countries were acutely aware that Turkey needed Saudi Arabia and that Saudi Arabia needed Turkey “to promote regional stability which is very important to both sides.”
She said the timing of the crown prince’s visit was very important. She pointed out that Moody’s, the credit ratings agency, had downgraded Turkey’s sovereign credit rating, but Gulf businesses had nonetheless continued to invest in Turkey.
“The message that Saudi Arabia is sending with this visit is that it has full faith in the Turkish economy regardless of the negative ratings. I am sure more investment opportunities will be discussed during the visit which could take Saudi-Turkish business ties to a new level,” she said.
Cengiz said there had been reports in the Turkish media about the signing of a Free Trade Agreement between Turkey and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.
“This will also be discussed during the meeting,” she said. “And taking into consideration, the advancing economic ties, I think the signing of such an agreement will be a milestone in the two countries’ relations.”
According to her, Saudi Arabia and Turkey are on the same page on Syria. “There may be some small points of divergence here and there on some aspects of how to deal with Syria without Assad, but both countries have similar views on Syria,” she said. “They have been cooperating on Syria because that is in the interest of both sides. A stable Syria is very important for both countries.”
Also, Cengiz said, Iran’s influence on Syria was a concern for both countries. “Iranian expansion is considered a threat by both sides,” she said. “Therefore, this is another key issue for the two countries to cooperate on.”
She said Turkey still believed that Assad should not play a part in Syria’s future. “So there is no change in Turkish foreign policy,” she said. “But, of course, after the failed coup attempt, Turkey is going through an important transition in many areas, particularly its foreign policy.”
The Turkish operation against terrorists inside Syria that took place a month ago, she said, should be looked at in the context of Turkey’s current rapprochement with Russia.
“The recent military operations in Syria after the rapprochement are a very important step,” she said.
Cengiz said there was little interest in Turkey about the Middle East and Gulf states before Erdogan’s AK Party came to power. “We only started hearing and talking about Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states in the last decade. This has been reflected in our media as well,” she said.
She said there was great attention in the Turkish media to the crown prince’s visit. “In general, Turkish media is keenly following the visit,” she said.
According to her, the recent visit of Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir created a very favorable environment. “He delivered a keynote address at a very important think-tank (SETA) on Sept. 9 on Saudi-Turkish relations. He explained in detail the need for a cooperative approach in a region that is increasingly being transformed.”
She said the Saudi minister delivered a “wonderful speech and took questions from the media. He was very articulate; I attended it and saw huge interest by the media in his speech and in his visit. All that was very positive for the relationship,” she said.
“We don’t see negative news about Saudi Arabia in the Turkish media, precisely because of the excellent relations that exist between the two countries.”
Cengiz said there were reports about a Turkish delegation visiting the Kingdom in October. “These high-level visits are significant; their timings are significant,” she said. “These are indications of the further strengthening of ties between the two countries.”


Expats feel safer in Saudi Arabia but worry about their kin back home

Updated 5 min 22 sec ago

Expats feel safer in Saudi Arabia but worry about their kin back home

  • Many are concerned about the health and safety of their loved ones in places where the number of infections is on the rise

RIYADH: The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has affected all spheres of life. Global air travel screeched to halt when the number of infections spiked around the world. Despite the resumption of flights on a limited scale and on certain routes, air travel has largely been suspended.

The situation is worrisome for those who are living abroad and are unable to travel to their home countries. Many are concerned about the health and safety of their loved ones in places where the number of infections is on the rise.

Faiz Al-Najdi, a Pakistani expatriate working as a project manager with a consultant associated with the Royal Commission at Yanbu, told Arab News: “At first I was a bit skeptical about the seriousness of this pandemic but when some of my acquaintances in Riyadh and my hometown Karachi died of COVID-19 I began to get worried.”

He said it is very painful to hear bad news from home when you live abroad. Due to the suspension of air operations, “I felt helpless,” Al-Najdi said.

He praised the Kingdom for handling the pandemic very effectively. “The Saudi government's response was very swift. The measures it took helped curb the spread of the virus,” he said.

Ghaffar Khan, another Pakistani expatriate working here, said: “I was concerned about my family in Pakistan as the number of patients was increasing. But all thanks to Almighty, my family is safe in Pakistan.”

“I am very satisfied by the Saudi authorities’ handling of the situation in the Kingdom,” he said.

The number of cases in India, the world’s second-most-populous country, has reached a once-unthinkable threshold: 1.86 million confirmed cases — with over 50,000 cases recorded per day — and 38,938 deaths, joining the US and Brazil in a club no country wants to enter.

The situation has caused panic among Indian expatriates living in the Kingdom and has become of the source of concern for Indian businessmen, who are worried about staff members stranded in India, raw materials supply, and family and friends.

Speaking to Arab News on Tuesday, Abdulla Sheikh, general manager at Al-Kharj Union Foundry, said: “As a foundry that is dependent on Indian knowhow and Indian staff, we are extremely concerned with the COVID-19 situation in the country.”

“We have key staff stranded in India since March, who are unable to return after their visits. As a result, our production capacity is down by almost 20 percent,” he said.

“India is also the prime provider of raw materials used in our processes,” Sheikh explained.

“Due to the pandemic, our supply chain has been disrupted, leading to delays and quality control issues,” he said. “We are thankful for the immediate and correct measures taken by the Saudi government to help the economy and hope that we see a concrete plan by the Indian government to get back things on track,” he added.

Shahana Parveen, a teacher at New Middle East International School, told Arab News: “We are deeply concerned about the rising cases of COVID-19 infections in India. We are worried about the well-being of our parents and family members.”

She added: “I wish that the Indian government would learn from the experience of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries and resort to more scientific methods in handling this pandemic.”

Akhtarul Islam Siddiqui, an Indian expatriate in Riyadh, said: “The situation in India is deteriorating, and as an Indian living in Saudi Arabia, I feel safer and more secure than my two daughters who are currently stranded in India.”

“The Indian government has not taken adequate steps to monitor and stop the spread of COVID-19,” he said, adding: “I request that all Indians present in Saudi Arabia who are desperate for flights to resume to India instead remain in the Kingdom as we are safer here than in our home country.”

Rais Ahmed Ali Motlekar, an Indian working at American multinational corporation Cognizant as client partner and director, said: “For many of my friends and colleagues, Eid holidays are the best time to be together with relatives in India, but this year has been very different as people are unable to travel. Repatriation flights operated by the Indian Embassy are an option, but many people feel safer here and want to remain in Saudi Arabia as the situation in India is moving from bad to worse.”

While he described his condition in Saudi Arabia as comparatively “much better and safer,” he expressed concern for his elderly parents in India.

Mohammed Nasim Akhtar, an Indian business development manager working in Riyadh for three decades, told Arab News: “We are worried about the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in our homeland. We pray for the well-being of all.”