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  • As Turkey prepared for its centenary, our relationship with Saudi Arabia goes from strength to strength

As Turkey prepared for its centenary, our relationship with Saudi Arabia goes from strength to strength

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31 Oct 2022 03:10:04 GMT9
31 Oct 2022 03:10:04 GMT9

Following occupation after the First World War, the Turkish nation fought a long war for freedom, independence and sovereignty under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. It resulted, 99 years ago, in the founding of the Republic of Turkey.

Within the framework of Ataturk’s motto, “Peace at home, peace in the world,” the young Turkish nation began to establish friendly relations with other countries, especially those with whom Turkey shared common historical, religious and cultural bonds.

With this in mind, in 1926 Turkey was one of the first countries to recognize what would become the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (at the time known as the Kingdom of Hejaz and Najd), establishing diplomatic relations and appointing Suleyman Sevket Bey charge d’affaires that same year. Turkey and Saudi Arabia were among the few independent Muslim states during that interwar period, an era of ongoing colonialism.

On Aug. 3, 1929, the two countries signed a “Treaty of Friendship.” On Sept. 23, 1932, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was founded and Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was one of the first world leaders to send a message of congratulations to King Abdulaziz.

As Turkish-Saudi relations blossomed, a visit by Prince Faisal bin Abdulaziz, the Saudi minister of foreign affairs, to Turkey in 1932 marked a milestone for their ties. The prince arrived in Istanbul on June 8 and traveled to Ankara on June 12, where Ataturk received the prince and hosted a dinner in his honor. During his stay, Prince Faisal observed Turkish Army maneuvers in Ankara and visited military-industry facilities in Kirikkale. His visit consolidated the foundations of a lasting Turkish-Saudi friendship.

Turkey and Saudi Arabia share the same religion, close cultural ties and a common history. Moreover the Turkish nation has a kinship with the Saudi royal family through Princess Iffet. Both as an esteemed spouse of King Faisal and the mother of respected princes and princesses, Turkish-born Princess Iffet is remembered as an important pillar of Turkish-Saudi friendship. Her precious efforts to promote the education of Saudi women are still remembered by the Saudi people and her endeavors also made the Turkish community in Saudi Arabia proud.

After he ascended to throne, King Faisal visited Turkey in 1966. More recently 10 high-level visits between the two brotherly countries took place between 2005 and 2013 alone.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan received the 2010 King Faisal International Prize for Service to Islam from King Abdullah. In the same year, the two countries signed an agreement on military cooperation in training and the scientific and technical fields. The Turkish president also visited Saudi Arabia in 2011, 2012 and 2017.

We believe the goals of Vision 2030 and the strengths of the Turkish economy represent an excellent match, providing us with the motivation to raise the bar in our relationship to new heights.

Fatih Ulusoy

This year, reciprocal visits by President Erdogan and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, raised the bilateral relationship to new heights and paved the way for further cooperation. The warmth and sincere atmosphere of fraternity displayed during these historic visits tells us a lot about the future of our relationship. Bilateral relations hold great potential in various fields. Tourism, construction, trade, investment, digital technologies and the defense industry are among the key areas of cooperation.

In the past 20 years, the development of the Turkish defense industry has gained impressive momentum. Today, about 70-80 percent of products used by the army are domestically produced. Turkish defense industry companies are keen to cooperate with the brotherly Kingdom, which aims to strengthen its own national defense industry.

Turkey always stands in solidarity with Saudi Arabia against terrorism. We condemn all types of terrorist attacks on the Kingdom.

Under the leadership of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed, Saudi Vision 2030 has paved the way for a brighter future for the country. As guests of the Kingdom we have been fascinated by the positive transformation in the nation and the momentum of change.

Vision 2030 also creates new opportunities in the fields of clean energy, industry, employment, the environment, tourism, services, software and medicine.

As an energy-importing country, Turkey needs alternative energy sources to fuel its thriving economy. Therefore, Turkish demand for energy increases year by year and green energy presents a clean and environmentally friendly solution. Turkey looks forward to enhancing its broad cooperation with Saudi Arabia in this field as well.

Turkey is an important tourism destination for Saudis. We appreciate the fact that more than 250,000 Saudis visited our country in July and August this year alone. The Turkish people always warmly welcome and look forward to hosting our esteemed Saudi guests. Next year we hope to see even more Saudi brothers and sisters travel to Turkey.

Meanwhile, the two holy cities attract hundreds of thousands of Turkish visitors to Saudi Arabia every year as well. Turkey has a vast amount of experience to share with the developing and promising tourism sector in Saudi Arabia.

Turkish construction companies have the second-largest business volume around the world and they have contributed to infrastructure and development in the Kingdom. We believe Turkish firms will make further contributions through the mega projects that form part of Vision 2030.

In line with the goals of Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia this year submitted its bid to host Expo 2030. President Erdogan has stated that Turkey will support the Kingdom’s candidature.

As a cofounder of the Group of Friends of Mediation, Turkey has always backed the pursuit of peaceful solutions to regional conflicts. Within this framework, Turkey and Saudi Arabia support peace and stability in the region and the wider world.

Both countries back a two-state solution to the Palestinian issue. President Erdogan and Crown Prince Mohammed have also called for a political solution to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

With mediation by Turkey and the UN, a deal was reached for the resumption of grain exports from Ukraine. Thanks to this agreement, the effects of the global food crisis resulting from the conflict are being felt less in many Middle Eastern countries.

In recent decades, cultural ties have been strengthened thanks to the popularity of Turkish TV and film dramas.

There are unshakable bonds between the Turkish and Saudi peoples and we will strive to further fortify our friendship and these bonds.

While preparing for the centenary of the Republic, Turkey is eager to further improve its relations with the region. Turkey and Saudi Arabia are major actors in the Middle East and the Islamic world. Both countries are members of international organizations such as the UN, the G20 and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

Saudi Arabia has a gravity in regional politics and Turkey is committed to strengthening our relationship with Saudi Arabia in all dimensions. I have no doubt that we will witness further progress in Turkish-Saudi relations in the near future, built on the foundations established by our leaders during the two historic visits that took place this year.

We believe the goals of Vision 2030 and the strengths of the Turkish economy represent an excellent match, providing us with the motivation to raise the bar in our relationship to new heights.

  • Fatih Ulusoy is Turkey’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia.
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