Turkey's Erdogan heads to Gulf seeking funds for ailing economy

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is beginning a three-stop tour of Gulf states to raise trade and investment for Turkey’s floundering economy

Andrew Wilks
Monday 17 July 2023 11:35 BST
Turkey Erdogan Gulf Trip
Turkey Erdogan Gulf Trip (AP)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan travels to Saudi Arabia on Monday in a three-stop tour of Gulf states to seek trade and investment opportunities for Turkey’s floundering economy.

The president will arrive in Jeddah accompanied by an entourage of some 200 businesspeople, according to the Foreign Economic Relations Board of Turkey. He is expected to meet King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Business forums have been arranged in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates during Erdogan’s three-day trip.

The visit comes as Turks are hit with sales and fuel tax hikes that Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek has said are necessary to restore fiscal discipline and bring inflation down.

The official annual inflation rate stood at 38% last month, down from a high of 85% in October. Independent economists, however, maintain that the actual rate was around 108% in June.

Turkey’s current account deficit reached record levels this year – $37.7 billion in the first five months — and Erdogan is hoping the oil- and gas-rich Gulf states will help plug the gap.

Last month the Turkish central bank delivered a large interest rate hike, signaling a shift toward more conventional economic policies following criticism that Erdogan’s low-rate approach had made a cost-of-living crisis worse.

His Gulf tour was preceded by Turkish officials including Simsek, Vice President Cevdet Yilmaz and central bank Governor Hafize Gaye Erkan holding talks in all three countries.

Ankara has recently repaired ties with Saudi Arabia and the UAE following a decade-long rift. The split arose following the 2011 Arab Spring and Turkey’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood, considered a threat by some Gulf monarchies.

Worsening relations were exacerbated by a boycott of Turkish ally Qatar by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain. The 2018 murder of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul led to a further souring of ties with Riyadh.

Since Erdogan launched a diplomatic re-engagement with previously estranged regional powers two years ago, funding from the Gulf has helped relieve pressure on the economy.

Erdogan visited both Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed — the country’s de-facto ruler — and UAE President Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan last year, while the latter came to Istanbul for soccer's Champions League final a month ago.

Qatar and the UAE have provided Turkey with some $20 billion in currency swap agreements recently while Saudi Arabia deposited $5 billion into Turkey’s Central Bank in March.

Days after Erdogan won re-election last month, the UAE and Turkey signed a trade deal potentially worth $40 billion over the next five years.

Erdogan is due to meet Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, in Doha on Tuesday before seeing the UAE leader in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in