The Turkish capital Ankara has received two important guests in recent days. On June 22, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan received the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman (MBS). The next day, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, who will lead his country to the next elections as Prime Minister, visited his Turkish counterpart, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu.
These two official visits were significant as they demonstrated the concrete results of Turkey’s normalization policy and the strengthening of the country’s role in the regional balance of forces. It is particularly important to note that the standardization process has been shaped by mutual commitment, as opposed to demand from either party, so that relevant expectations can be assessed on a rational basis. At the same time, the standardizing parties strive to ensure that their new relationship does not harm the interests of third parties. Again, each standardization process has its own dynamics and influences the calculations of others.
Riyadh and Ankara are able to repair their relationship the fastest. Bilateral relations, which the murder of Jamal Khashoggi strained in 2018 and recovered during Erdoğan’s visit to Jeddah in April, could gain new momentum after MBS’s visit.
Indeed, the joint declaration goes in this direction. Accordingly, the two nations aim to strengthen their cooperation in the fields of trade, tourism, construction and energy, as well as the defense industry and new technologies. The statement also included a reference to Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 and a commitment to reactivate the Saudi-Turkish Coordination Council, while stressing the importance of the Turkey-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) negotiations on a free exchange. These points indicate that the two states are trying to develop a long-term perspective in light of regional and global developments.
It was also significant that MBS’s visit came ahead of US President Joe Biden’s upcoming tour of the Middle East with stops in Israel, the West Bank and Jeddah. Saudi leaders had been unhappy with the Biden administration’s treatment of Saudi Arabia as a “pariah” as well as Washington’s decision to stop supporting Riyadh over Yemen’s civil war, and the room for maneuver that the nuclear talks have created for Iran. .
The sharp rise in oil prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, however, forced the Biden administration to normalize America’s relations with Saudi leaders. To prevent his party from losing the midterm elections in November, the American president wants the Saudis to increase their oil production. At the same time, Biden is expected to promote closer relations between Arab leaders and Israel and reassure US allies in the Gulf regarding Iran.
Having turned a new page in its relationship with Riyadh, Ankara finds an opportunity to play a more active role in the region in this context. Meanwhile, Iran’s proxies and the progress of that country’s nuclear program, which apparently can manufacture nuclear weapons, remain a concern for the entire region. This situation, in turn, encourages all countries in the region, beginning with Saudi Arabia, to become nuclear powers themselves.
Indeed, Tel Aviv is among the Middle Eastern capitals most unhappy with Iran’s growing regional influence. Lapid’s visit to Ankara coincided with a kind of war between Tehran and his country. Israel has carried out attacks against Iranian nuclear facilities, military colonies and scientists involved in that country’s nuclear program. Additionally, Tel Aviv is talking about launching a new initiative against Iranian armed drones, the Middle East Air Defense Alliance, in cooperation with Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia. saudi. Finally, before the visit of the Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs, Turkey dismantled an Iranian spy network.
During Lapid’s visit, it was announced that Turkey and Israel, which are heading for snap elections, will take another step towards normalization by raising their diplomatic relations to ambassadorial level. Clearly, the normalization process is being carefully handled, as former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lurks in the shadows.
Ankara’s normalization with Israel and the Gulf States does not harm the interests of any third party, including Iran. Turkey opposes the emergence of ideological or sectarian blocs in the region. Nor does he want one regional power to pose a threat to the others. He also understands that any attempt to reshape the region, similar to what happened during Donald Trump’s presidency in the United States, would only fuel conflict and hostilities. As such, Ankara hopes to be a balancing factor in the region that generates security and stability.
In this sense, the crackdown by the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) against spy networks acting on behalf of various countries is not just aimed at sending a message to Tehran. Other governments are also being told that they cannot carry out such operations on Turkish soil.