7TH TÜRKİYE - GULF DEFENCE AND SECURITY FORUM FINAL DECLARATION

Haber

7th Türkiye - Gulf Defence and Security Forum whose main theme “New Discoveries in the Turkish - Arab Security Ecosystem” was held by TASAM National Defence and Security Institute, together with the 9th Istanbul Security Conference on the date of 24th of November, 2023, in Istanbul Kent University Kağıthane Campus, simultaneously as a co-event....

7th Türkiye - Gulf Defence and Security Forum whose main theme “New Discoveries in the Turkish - Arab Security Ecosystem“ was held by TASAM National Defence and Security Institute, together with the 9th Istanbul Security Conference on the date of 24th of November, 2023, in Istanbul Kent University Kağıthane Campus, simultaneously as a co-event.

Speakers and protocols from various countries and regions, and from different fields and sectors, have participated in the Forum. Diplomatic representatives and delegations from the Gulf countries have also taken part. In the Forum, speeches and presentations were made by local/foreign experts, academics and diplomats. Relevant authorities from Türkiye and the Gulf were also represented at the Forum, and all sessions were followed institutionally.

The following issues of vital importance in present and future of Türkiye, the Gulf countries and the region were discussed at the Forum; “New Discoveries in the Turkish - Arab Security Ecosystem“, “Safe Crescent of Fertility and Balance Partnership“, “New Threats and Opportunities in the Ecosystem“, “Cyber Security, Nourishment Security, Production-Consumption Security“, “Defence Industry ; Land, Sea, Air, Space, Police, Gendarme, Intelligence, Strategic Sectors“ and “Cooperation in the Security and Defence Ecosystem of the Future“.

As a result of the Forum, the following objectives and recommendations were made, and it was decided to bring them to the attention of all relevant authorities and the public:
  1.  In the recent Gaza events, an inhumane and non-compliant conflict with the laws of war is taking place. The ongoing bombings without distinction between women and children are indicators that the conflict has surpassed the boundaries of international humanitarian law. The support of Gulf countries, especially Türkiye and Qatar, will be crucial for the progression of the war and the post-war process in Palestine.
     
  2.  Türkiye does not have a single dynamic in its stance towards Middle East politics; rather, there exists a complex realism. After the 1960s, the perspective shifted away from a Europe-centric view, and during the Turgut Özal era, relations were updated with the strengthening economic dimension involving Middle Eastern countries.
     
  3. In 2017, tensions escalated in the relationship between Türkiye and Saudi Arabia following the Gulf Crisis and Türkiye's collaboration with Russia in Syria, along with the deployment of Turkish troops abroad for the first time. The tension increased with Saudi Arabia imposing a boycott on Türkiye after the Jamal Khashoggi incident. However, Saudi Arabia, attempting to normalize relations post-pandemic, has been influenced by Türkiye's increased military power in this transformation. Mutual investments and the harmony in pioneering diplomacy with Qatar have supported the process of normalization with Saudi Arabia.
     
  4. With the paradigm shift in Turkish Gulf security, the Iran issue has been a decisive factor in determining Türkiye's Gulf relations within the regional context. In its relations with the United States, Türkiye has consistently attempted to act in a way that balances against Iran. The flexibility in decisions taken by Iran in its foreign policy, associated with the magnitude of the threat to the state's survival, has remained pragmatic or ideological. Iran's post-revolutionary security and foreign policy approach to regional and global crises has been a source of uncertainty. Tehran has displayed a more pragmatic approach in some instances, while in others, it has adopted a rigid and uncompromising stance. This pendulum-like model makes it difficult to examine and predict Iran's response to regional and global issues. The comprehensive stance, seeking unconditional obedience from citizens in the face of internal and external threats, indicates that policies are driven by a concern to satisfy small support groups rather than the general public.
     
  5. Türkiye has made significant moves in recent years to enhance its relations with all GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) member countries, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Oman, within the framework of a balanced policy. Striving to become an indispensable actor in the Gulf region, Türkiye has not been indifferent to the developments in the Gulf. One of the most crucial transformations in the Middle East up to the present has been the 1979 Iranian Revolution. The Iranian Islamic Republic's policy of spreading its adopted Islamic regime to neighboring countries triggered the establishment of the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) among six countries in 1981, indicating that Türkiye could not remain a mere spectator to developments in the Gulf region. Iran's expansionist policy also alarmed Washington, leading the United States to establish an "Emergency Intervention Force" for the Gulf region in 1981. Developments such as the occupation of Kuwait and the Arab Spring are turning points in the region. With the withdrawal of the United States from Iraq, Iran's influence in the region has strengthened, further boosted by Russia's support. If the United States withdraws from the region after a potential defeat for Israel, Iran's dominance in the region is likely to continue to strengthen.
     
  6. The goal of Syria's systematic restructuring and the transportation of gas in the Eastern Mediterranean to the west has led to changes in relations among states in the region. The reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean could be utilized as an alternative to Russian gas. The conflict in Israel has clearly indicated that neighboring countries such as Jordan and Egypt will face challenging times. Türkiye, maintaining a balanced policy with Egypt, has suspended its relations with Israel due to the ongoing conflict.
     
  7. Türkiye's relations with the Gulf are of great importance for regional employment and development. One significant factor is the period of the Arab Spring. Rather than focusing on regime changes, efforts have been made to calm the people. Serious negative consequences have occurred among countries after the Arab Spring. During the 2017 Gulf Crisis and the imposed strict embargo, Qatar's relations with the countries in the region entered a severe crisis. Türkiye provided food aid to Qatar, engaged in mediation efforts, and took collaborative steps in the military field. With the 2021 Al Ula Summit, new requirements for a reorganized Gulf emerged, and the crisis that lasted for approximately four years came to an end.
     
  8. When events leading to the separation of Gulf countries are examined, it is observed that the majority of these events have origins in the West. A dialogue-based collaboration mechanism between Türkiye and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) stands out as one of the key elements of this change. Stability in Saudi Arabia's foreign policy and the continuity of the status quo in the region are significant factors. Religious elements, commitment to the Arab cause, and considerations related to oil are factors considered in external economic relations.
     
  9. Saudi Arabia holds a leading position in the Middle East and collaborates with other Islamic countries. Its primary rival is Iran, which is associated with Shiite groups. With the new King, Saudi Arabia initiated a reform agenda. The 2030 Vision project has become a focal point aiming to break free from oil dependence and shift towards different trade and production areas. Both the government and the private sector have made significant investments in 5G, artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain, cloud computing, and cybersecurity. According to a 2020 report, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are in a global leadership position in digital transformation technologies.
     
  10. In this transformative period where technological advancements take center stage, the importance of cities developing in this direction has been emphasized. Saudi Arabia, showcasing its independence from reliance solely on oil through investments and projects in technology and digital domains, is poised to bring about changes in its political structure and international policies in the near future due to these developments.
     
  11. Saudi Arabia holds an indispensable position for China's energy needs. The Saudi energy industry is considered more stable compared to Iran. However, in recent times, China's relations with Iran have continued in close cooperation. The question of whether China should approach Iran driven by geopolitical competition or pragmatically align itself with Saudi Arabia remains uncertain due to these dynamics.
     
  12. China's interests in the Gulf region extend beyond mere energy security and encompass three significant issues. Firstly, the substantial Chinese investments in the Middle East and the occasional attacks on Chinese nationals working on these projects create concerns in Beijing. Secondly, the control of critical energy trade routes like the Strait of Hormuz and the Bab el-Mandeb Strait by Iran prompts China to explore alternative pathways. Thirdly, Iran's role as a significant actor in resisting U.S. influence makes Iran a strategic partner for China. If China decides to increase its military presence in the Middle East in the future, Iran could play a crucial role in this context. Due to the geostrategic advantages in the U.S.-China competition, it seems inevitable for China to return to an active policy of neutrality in the Gulf region after a long period.
     
  13. The Gulf countries have made significant progress and drawn closer to each other since the 2000s. The Arab revolutions led to a return to the status quo, rejecting Western hegemony to some extent. When looking at Türkiye's relations with the Gulf, bilateral ties have developed, especially with the establishment of a Turkish base in Qatar. The advancement of Türkiye's defense industry has played a crucial role in this development.
     
  14. Gulf countries aspire to undertake new security diversifications and defense investments. This inclination arises from a diminishing trust in the United States and Western countries over time. However, the uncertainty surrounding how and to what extent bilateral relations will continue means that ongoing wars in the region could determine future impacts. Turkish UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) and drones stand out in asymmetrical threat situations due to their rapid production and cost-effectiveness.
     
  15. In historical terms, the Soviet invasion, the Iranian Revolution, and the Iran-Iraq War left the region inadequately defended. Inability to withstand powers like Saddam and the subsequent need to seek assistance from Western countries serve as examples of this situation. The United States' containment measures against Iran have provided an opening for Gulf countries. Due to embargoes, there has been a shift in Iran's defense industry towards local products and Asian-manufactured vehicles. The use of these vehicles in the Iran-Iraq War led to a focus on cybersecurity and UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) production. Over the past 20 years, Iran has attempted to address its defense shortcomings by investing in UAVs. The use of UAVs in Iran's attack on Saudi Arabia in 2009 highlights the region's inadequacy in countering Iran's UAVs and drones.
     
  16. Karabakh and Ukraine conflicts have increased the demand for Turkish UAVs, demonstrating their effectiveness. This surge in demand has played a significant role in improving relations between Türkiye and Gulf countries.
     
  17. In NATO's Mediterranean dialogue, Türkiye has positioned itself as a political supporter and has also played a pivotal role in shaping the dynamics of the NATO Istanbul Cooperation Initiative. Seven countries, including Tunisia, Israel, and Algeria, have become members of the Mediterranean dialogue. Türkiye has played a significant role in NATO cooperation with Arab countries.
     
  18. The Iran-Saudi Arabia agreement facilitated by China in March 2023 marks a historic turning point, fundamentally shaking the dynamics that have long dominated the Western-designed "regional system." Among the key elements of the Gulf regional system are securitization practices based on U.S. interests and policies. The strategic interests include maintaining Western control over the region and ensuring the security of Israel. The agreement signals a shift away from these dynamics, ushering in a new era in the geopolitical landscape of the Gulf region.
     
  19. The militarization of the region has been achieved through the arming of regional actors and the establishment of American military bases in the area. Security has been politicized. Despite the continued role of the United States in the region, the dynamics of external actors such as China and Russia are gaining momentum. China's increasing political influence and arms supply significantly impact security in the Gulf countries. Russia's growing role in Gulf security is also noteworthy. The Abraham Accords have led to Israel gaining influence in the region's politics and security. Furthermore, military cooperation between the UAE and Israel is deepening as part of the normalization process.
     
  20. Türkiye holds a strategic position in the Gulf region due to its role in the Qatar crisis and its security relations with Qatar. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's visit to the Gulf, following the normalization of relations with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, has led to significant steps in security relations, potentially elevating it to a strategic partnership level. Türkiye is expected to contribute to the regional security system through defense industry agreements. Türkiye's economic and energy relations with Gulf countries could serve as a balance against the military interventions by the U.S. and Israel towards Iran. Türkiye's influence in regional politics, aligned with its strategic goals such as conflict resolution and counterterrorism efforts, may contribute to regional stability. In the long run, this could pave the way for a reshaping of the regional system based on cooperation and common interests among the actors.
     
  21. Basra Gulf is highly significant in terms of oil reserves. Security concerns, geopolitical tensions, and conflicts, along with the influential regional powers such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, contribute to apprehensions about the region. Saudi Arabia holds a leading position as a regional power in the Gulf. Its foreign policy approach involves maintaining its regional role while prioritizing state regime security, forming what could be termed as "twin objectives." Hosting sacred elements of Islam, Saudi Arabia sees the protection of these areas as one of its important goals.
     
  22. While Qatar pursues an independent foreign policy, mediation activities prominently feature in its foreign policy strategies. Kuwait, on the other hand, is concerned with maintaining its presence in its foreign policy, especially in the aftermath of the Gulf War. Emphasizing sovereignty is particularly notable in this context.
     
  23. When looking at these three countries (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar), it is observed that they have started to handle their own affairs more independently as the interest of major powers diminishes and increasing security concerns come to the forefront. Their desire for independent foreign policies and regional leadership efforts is growing, but they can be effective in small-scale crises while facing challenges in larger-scale crises. Recently, a series of international and regional factors have led to a closer alignment between Türkiye and the Gulf Arab states, under the leadership of seeking to reduce tensions in the Gulf, promote economic diversity, and support growth, emphasizing the pursuit of greater stability.
     
  24. The recently discovered natural gas resources in the Black Sea, along with the potential for improved relations with Israel and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, or increased tensions in Ukraine, may bring the United States and Türkiye closer. This could not only strengthen ties with India and the Gulf Cooperation Council states but also unlock Türkiye's potential in the Gulf. Compared to involvement from Russia and China, this could be more preferable for the United States and European allies.
     
  25. Türkiye-Gulf security cooperation will continue to develop within the framework of local, regional, and international constraints and opportunities, supporting the existing forms of Turkish security influence in the Mediterranean and the Gulf. The risk is that, under current conditions, the relations may remain operational rather than becoming truly strategic.
     
  26. Abu Dhabi Development Holding Company has allocated a $10 billion fund for investments in Türkiye as part of the UAE-Türkiye reconciliation in 2021. This funding has served as a precursor to further agreements aimed at advancing bilateral defense cooperation, including a focus on technologies related to manufacturing components, weapons, and other materials, as part of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA).
     
  27. Joint ventures and military exercises, similar to those witnessed between Russia and the UAE, can bring more benefits to Türkiye and Arab countries, especially those without a strong U.S. military presence. This effort could contribute to NATO ally the United States in sharing the burden in the Gulf and help address the trust/balance gap between the United States and the countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) on various issues, including the U.S. response to the Iranian nuclear program and events like the Arab Spring.
24 November 2023, Istanbul
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