On 5 June 2017, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt – the Quartet – severed diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar over its alleged support for terrorism, triggering the ‘Qatar diplomatic crisis’ and effectively blockading the country from their respective territories. An alternative frame for the crisis is that it resulted from Qatar’s attempt to escape Saudi Arabia’s dominance and expand its own regional connections. Doha’s policies to achieve this included support for Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Islamist and revolutionary groups in Tunisia, Libya, Syria, Egypt, and Somalia (mostly after 2011), an ideologically tolerant and energy resources-based collaborative stance towards Iran, and the development of military and political ties with Turkey, which positions itself as rival to Saudi Arabia as the leader of the Sunni community of the faithful. Yet, the 2017 crisis was more a trigger for the growth of Turkish-Qatari relations than its cause. For instance, it was after the crisis (by a day) that the Turkish Parliament ratified two treaties that enabled Turkish troops to deploy to Qatar and train Qatari forces.
The fateful date of 5 June 2017 does mark a major juncture in regional geopolitics and, looking beyond the headlines, it is important to assess its depth and likely permanence even though the Al-Ula declaration of 7 January 2021 initiated a process of reconciliation between the Quartet and Qatar. With this in mind, the report analyses drivers behind Turkish-Qatari cooperation and the development of their relationship between 2002 and 2020. It also takes stock of the current nature of this relationship and how it affects various conflicts and crises across the Middle East, North Africa, and the Horn of Africa (focusing on Syria, Libya, and Somalia as key cases). The report concludes with recommendations that can further reduce regional tensions.