On November 26, 2020, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan hosted Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Aal Thani in Ankara for the sixth meeting of the Turkey-Qatar Supreme Strategic Committee. President Erdoğan received Emir Aal Thani at the Presidential Palace with a formal ceremony featuring soldiers in medieval military garb and units on horseback. During the visit, Erdoğan and Aal Thani signed ten agreements between Turkey and Qatar on topics including finance, investment, diplomacy, free-trade areas, water management, and "the areas of family, women, and social services." Leaving Turkey the same day following what was the 28th meeting between the two in five years, Emir Aal Thani tweeted that it had been a "successful" visit. The meeting came as, after dropping throughout 2020, the value of the Turkish lira against the USD has fallen to a point near a 10-year low.
Erdoğan receives Aal Thani at the Presidential Palace in Ankara on November 26 (source: Internethaber.com).
Qatari Investment In Turkey In Recent Years Estimated At $25 Billion, Includes Joint-Ownership Of Turkish Tank Factory
This latest visit is the continuation of a Turkey-Qatar relationship that has transformed in recent years from bilateral ties into a comprehensive strategic partnership (see MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1482, Turkey-Qatar Relations: From Bilateral Ties To A Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, November 12, 2019) in which Qatari investment in Turkey is a major element. Recent reports estimate that Qatar has invested $25 billion in Turkey. Following the November 26 meeting, it was announced that Qatar had purchased ten percent of the Istanbul Stock Exchange at 2.5 times the market price, with $200 million having reached the accounts of the Türkiye Varlık Fonu ("Turkey Wealth Fund") as of December 1, according to Zafer Sönmez, the fund's director.
Other purchases include: Qatar National Bank's 2015 purchase of 99.81 percent of the shares of Finansbank of Turkey for €2.75 billion; Qatar Commercial Bank's 2016 purchase of the remaining 25 percent of shares of Alternatif Bank of Turkey held by Anatolia Industry Holding for $224.9 million; the Qatari firm QInvest's 2016 purchase of Turkish investment firm Ergo Portföy, after which QInvest's name changed to QInvest Portföy; Qatari BeIN Media Group's purchase of the Digiturk television platform for $1.2 billion; the Qatar Armed Forces Industry Committee's 2017 purchase of 50 percent of Turkish automotive company BMC, which also produces vehicles for the Turkish military; the purchase of Brazilian-Qatari partnership TBQ Food's purchase of 79.5 percent of the shares of Turkish poultry-raising company Banvit; Qatari firm HBK Contracting's April 2017 takeover of Turkish construction, infrastructure, and engineering firm Ankas; the purchase by Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, mother of Emir Aal Thani, of 44 acres of land on the planned route of the Istanbul Canal, a waterway imagined as an alternate to the Bosporus; Qatari investment in yacht ports, hotels, mosques, shopping centers, and parking lots planned for the Golden Horn, which is a central tourist district in Istanbul; the Qatari royal family's purchase of luxury beachfront hotels in Marmaris province; and the purchase of land throughout Turkey in general.
Emir Aal Thani's mother reportedly purchased 44 acres of land along the planned route of the Istanbul Canal (image source: Dailysabah.com).
In 2019, ownership of Turkey's largest tank factory was transferred to a jointly owned Turkish-Qatar private firm. In mid-November it was announced that the Qatar Investment Authority had purchased 42 percent of the shares of the Istinye Park shopping mall in the Sarıyer district of Istanbul for close to $300 million. In October 2020 Global Ports Holding announced that an agreement for the sale of the operating rights of the Port of Antalya to Qatari Qterminals WLL for $140 million had been reached. Emir Aal Thani's father-in-law, Abdulhadi Mana Al-Hajri bought the Erbilgin Mansion, which is the most expensive mansion in Turkey and the fourth most expensive house in the world, in 2015 for €100 million. In May 2020, amid the global outbreak of the coronavirus, Qatar increased upper limit swaps between the central banks of Turkey and Qatar from $5 billion to $15 billion.
Qatari investment includes 50 percent ownership of the Turkish licensing of BMC and joint ownership of Turkey's major tank factory.
In the days before and after the November 26 Turkey-Qatar meeting, many in Turkey have expressed their opposition to deepening Turkey-Qatar relations in recent newspaper columns. Many of the journalists whose writing is reviewed in this report have been sentenced to prison, have spent time in prison in the past, or have criminal cases opened against them for other things they have written or said.
Enver Aysever: "What Is Being Turned Over To Qatar Is The Honor Of The Citizenry"
Enver Aysever, in a November 30 column in daily Cumhuriyet wrote: "A citizenry is made by ethical measures. A slave doesn't think; he does whatever his master says. A citizen asks questions and argues. The republic is crowned with secularism. Secularism develops with the rule of law and scientific measurement, and democracy can only be brought up when enlightenment is reached. Civilized society cannot be achieved only with full stomachs, and now we do not even have that; we live in a community of the needy. We are toys in the hands of the cults and congregations! Those who were citizens in the old Turkey are slaves in the new one. You cannot create a public from a community of people who do not think, ask questions, and argue. To protect the homeland's little girls, the state ministry is sitting down at the table with the tribes and making an agreement. And they serve this to the press as a success. You cannot be a citizen with tribes; you will remain a slave. And the signatures signed are appropriate for the order in which we find ourselves.
Turkish journalist Enver Aysever (source: Birgun.net).
"What a shame! The bill to pay is very, very heavy! What is being turned over to Qatar is the honor of the citizenry. From the goal of making our daughters go to school and be doctors, teachers, and artists, we have become a culture that abandons them to the mercy of the tribes... Why did the republic advise people 'do not separate from science'? So that they do not become slaves, so they are not forced to open their hands and need anyone, so that they would not be sold to Qatar." The government opened a case against Aysever in November for a cartoon he tweeted in March, and is seeking a prison sentence of nine to 18 months. The charge is "publicly belittling the religious values held by a section of the public."
A court case against Aysever is seeking a prison sentence of nine to 15 months for his tweeting of the above cartoon.
Emin Çölaşan: "The Relations Between Qatar And The AKP Government Are Unbelievable!... No One Knows What Kind Of Relationship They Have!"
Emin Çölaşan, in a November 28 column in the leading opposition daily Sözcü titled "We are being sold," discussed the countries in the Arab gulf and wrote: "Now in that region the only oil-rich country that remains our friend is Qatar." He continued sarcastically: "Qatar is our life, may our blood be sacrificed [for it]!" He went on: "Those guys have so much money that they've almost started to buy all of Turkey one parcel at a time! Whatever you can think of. One night you look up and the banks, ports, the land around the Istanbul Canal, the majestic mansions on the Bosporus, the most valuable shopping center, which was named Istinye Park after Istanbul, have all gone to Qatar! Digitürk is long gone. They were able to get the tank factory in Sakarya in one night. That institution is singular in Turkey. It is extremely necessary for our national defense. And we as the Turkish nation do not know for how much this majestic factory was sold.
"The relations between Qatar and the AKP government are unbelievable!... No one knows what kind of relationship they have! If these comings and goings were with another country, we would have some questions: I wonder, are some people laundering money through Qatar? I wonder, are some people earning commissions and illicit profits from the sheikh of Qatar from these very large sales?... What sort of government is this? One day will these not be called to account in front of a judge?...
Turkish journalist Emin Çölaşan.
"On February 7, 1923, before the Republic had been declared, [founder of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal] Atatürk went to the minbar of the Sağnos Paşa Mosque in Balıkesir and gave a sermon. After noting the nobility of the religion of Islam, he said the following on the subject of secrecy: 'I do not want to say only my own thoughts. I want to understand all of your thoughts. They concealed from the nation matters that belong to the nation. National wishes and national will come not from the thought of one person but consist of the unification of the desires and wishes of all of the individuals of the nation. For this reason, whatever you want to learn from me, whatever you want to ask me, I want you to ask it freely.' Many years have passed since then, but it is once again clear that the lessons to be learned from Atatürk have not yet finished." Çölaşan was sentenced in December 2019 to three years, six months, and 15 days in prison for his alleged connection to the "Fethulah Gülen Terrorist Organization."
Yılmaz Özdil: "An Enormous Nation Of 83 Million People Is Being Snatched Up In A Mad Scramble By A Tribe Whose Population Is 300,000"
Yılmaz Özdil, in a December 28 column in Sözcü titled "Qatar," listed a number of Turkish terms along with satirical Arabic translations of them, then wrote: "If one is waiting like a street vendor for buyers for the property and possessions that this honorable state, which was founded with the bracelets that our blessed mother Zübeyde Hanım [mother of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk] gave to her son as dowry, from the coat that the fighter in the Kuvayı Milliye [the irregular Turkish militia forces in the early stages of the Turkish War of Independence] took off his own back and sold, with the funeral money of the patriotic mufti, has saved up with great effort...
Turkish journalist Yılmaz Özdil (soruce: Twitter.com).
"If one is happy, instead of hiding in a hole in the ground out of a shame, because an enormous nation of 83 million people is being snatched up in a mad scramble by a tribe whose population is 300,000... Then you might as well learn some Arabic. It'll come in handy." On November 11, Özdil was sentenced to five months in prison for insulting Defense Minister Hulusi Akar.
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Necati Doğru: "The Sheikh's Men Came To Turkey, They Did Research... 'Give Me The Stock Exchange, Give Me The Port Of The Golden Horn, Give Me The Port Of Antalya – That's Not Enough'"
Necati Doğru, in a November 28 column in Sözcü, wrote: "The crux of the matter is Turkey is giving property to settle its debt... The sheikh's men came to Turkey, they did research... 'Give me the Stock Exchange. Give me the Port of the Golden Horn. Give me the Port of Antalya. That's not enough. The debt is high. The Stock Exchange, Golden Horn, and Antalya do not settle the debt. There is İstinye Park, give us that too...'
"I wasn't at the palace. I don't know anyone there. I did not get any information from inside. I tell you the events as a story as if I was there when the agreements were signed. The essence of the matter is: If you take loans then consume and waste them, then when the time comes you cannot pay, they will take your property. They will make pay those who cannot pay. Qatar made [us] pay." Doğru was sentenced in December 2019 to three years, six months, and 15 days in prison for his alleged connection to the "Fethulah Gülen Terrorist Organization."
İhsan Çaralan: The Ten Agreements "Signal The Shift In Turkey-Qatar Relations From 'Give And Take' To The 'Instructions-Taking Phase'"
İhsan Çaralan, in a December 1 column in daily Evrensel, wrote: "Of course the pro-government media and politics whizzes have wasted a lot of breath, and it looks like they will waste more, with a type of propaganda that says 'if American capital comes you all will not object' to win legitimacy for their collaborators concerning the auctioning off behind closed doors of what this country has been able to accumulate."
Commenting on the danger of an agreement that gives Qatar any level of control over Turkey's water, Çaralan quoted Erdoğan himself, who said at an earlier time: "The IMF asked us for a loan. I said 'give it to them.' The one who today takes a loan will tomorrow take instructions." Çaralan continued: "The ten agreements made during Aal Thani's visit, above all the management of water being given to Qatar, are also important in that they signal the shift in Turkey-Qatar relations from 'give and take' to the 'instructions-taking phase.' Today the mode of taking instructions is in the phase of 'I am going to collect what I will take in this way,' and we will see whatever instructions there will be next." Çaralan was sentenced in October 2018 to 11 months and 20 days in prison for insulting President Erdoğan.
Other Journalists: "Before There Was Privatizing And Nationalizing – Now There Is Qatarizing"
Barış Doster, in a November 28 column in Cumhuriyet, commented on Qatar's small size and how it does not side with Turkey in regional conflicts including Cyprus and the recent fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Noting U.S. influence on Qatar via the Al Udeid Air Base, pointing out that it is the largest U.S. military base in the Middle East, he summarized his position, saying: "The largeness of Turkey's expectations from Qatar does not correspond with the capacity of the Qatari state."  Mustafa Balbay, in a December 1, 2020 column in Cumhuriyet, quoted a section of one of the ten agreements signed at the meeting and wrote: "This text opens the way for all of Turkey's water resources and irrigatable land to be managed with Qatar... It should be kept in mind that Qatar's governance, economy, and security are in a U.S.-U.K. partnership."
Murat Muratoğlu, in a column in Sözcü dated November 24, ahead of the meeting, wrote: "The investment was very rational for the Qatar Investment Authority. Turkey is currently one of the cheapest countries in the world. The reason is the that investors do not trust Erdoğan's policies. However he is the person whom Qatar trusts most in the world. He gifted [Erdoğan] the most expensive plane in the world. Of course, it's a little up in the air whether he gifted it, or while we [i.e., the public] were buying it we were too embarrassed to say so."
From left to right: Barış Doster, Mustafa Balbay, and Murat Muratoğlu.
In a November 28 column, Muratoğlu, after objecting to the impossibility of inspecting or investigating the Turkey Wealth Fund, by which many of these sales are being carried out and which is protected by a special law, wrote: "Okay, sell the shares of the Stock Exchange to Qatar – but why was it done without an auction? We could have gotten different offers and maybe someone giving a better price could have come forward, to the benefit of the nation. Is there any explanation on this issue? There is none!... Before there was privatizing and nationalizing. Now there is Qatarizing... The Turkey Wealth Fund has gone limitlessly, hopelessly, bloodthirstily in debt. Let's say the government changes. A new administration comes in. You look and find the Turkey Wealth Fund is $100 billion in debt to Qatar. Is it impossible? They could even sell the palace and write the profit to the Turkey Wealth Fund. They have such authority."
Erdoğan And Opposition Leader Kılıçdaroğlu's Statements On The Meeting
President Erdoğan's official Twitter account tweeted on the day of the meeting that Turkey and Qatar "form an inseparable whole." Responding to criticism of Qatar's purchase of ten percent of the shares of the Istanbul Stock Exchange, Erdoğan noted Qatari investment in European countries and Western countries' investment in Turkey, and said: "Money has no color or religion; money is money." Apparently responding to Erdoğan's statement that Qatar is also invested in the UK, Arslan Bulut wrote in daily Yeni Çağ a column titled "Does the UK make Qatar a partner in its water management?"
Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the CHP, Turkey's leading opposition party, responded to Erdoğan's comments, saying: "The Ottoman state collapsed because of administrators who were saying that. Does Erdoğan know this? He doesn't. What can you explain to Allah's ignorant [one]... If the president of a country is being threatened due to the property that he owns, if he is meeting the requests of sovereign powers, then that president has become a national security problem for that country. This is the summary of the problem. There is a block in front of Turkey, and the name of that block is Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. To remove that block from in front of Turkey will be an honorable duty for this nation." The CHP put forward a motion in parliament to research the Turkey Wealth Fund, to which Qatar had sent $200 million, and the ten agreements made with Qatar, and published and distributed a list of Turkish property that had been sold to the government of Qatar and to Qatari-owned companies.
 Tccb.gov.tr/en/speeches-statements/558/122951/qatar-emir-sheikh-tamim-to-visit-turkey, November 25, 2020.
 Sozcu.com.tr/2020/gundem/cumhurbaskani-erdogan-katar-emiri-al-saniyi-resmi-torenle-karsiladi-6142295, November 26, 2020.
 The agreements were titled: "Agreement Concerning The Transfer Of Shares Of İstinye Park [Shopping Mall]"; "Memorandum Of Understanding Concerning The Potential Joint Investment In The Istanbul Golden Horn"; "Concord Concerning The Purchases Of Istanbul Stock Exchange Shares"; "Agreement Between Global Ports Holding And QTerminals W.L.L. Concerning The Transfer Of Shares Of Port Akdeniz"; " Memorandum Of Understanding About The Joint Introduction Activities In The Field Of Free-Trade Areas Between The Ministry Of Commerce Of The Republic Of Turkey And The Free-Trade Areas Administration Of The State Of Qatar"; "Joint Declaration Concerning The Joint Formation Of An Economy And Trade Commission Between The Ministry Of Commerce Of The Republic Of Turkey And The Ministry Of Commerce And Industry Of The State Of Qatar"; "Memorandum Of Understanding On Cooperation On Water Management Between The Government of The Republic Of Turkey And The Government Of The State OF Qatar"; "Memorandum Of Understanding In The Area Of Developed Economic And Financial Cooperation Between Ministry Of Treasury And Finance Of The Republic Of Turkey And The Ministry Of Finance Of The State Of Qatar"; "Memorandum Of Understanding Concerning Cooperation In the Areas Of Family, Women, And Social Services Between The Government Of The Republic Of Turkey And The Government Of The State Of Qatar"; and "Statement Of Intent Concerning The Exchange Of Diplomats Between The Diplomacy Academy Of The Foreign Ministry Of The Republic Of Turkey And The Diplomacy Institute Of The Foreign Ministry Of The State Of Qatar." Aa.com.tr/tr/turkiye/turkiye-ve-katar-arasinda-10-anlasma-imzalandi/2057033, November 26, 2020.
 Aa.com.tr/tr/politika/turkiye-ile-katar-arasinda-6-yuksek-stratejik-komitesi-toplantisi-duzenlendi/2056892, November 26, 2020; Aa.com.tr/tr/dunya/katar-emiri-al-sani-ankarada-katar-turkiye-ortakligi-konusunda-basarili-bir-gorusme-turu-gerceklestirdim/2057377, November 26, 2020.
 Ensonhaber.com/gundem/katarin-turkiye-yatirimi-25-milyar-dolara-ulasti, November 27, 2020.
 Dw.com/tr/katardan-borsa-istanbula-25-kat-fazla-fiyat/a-55749425, November 27, 2020.
 T24.com.tr/haber/turkiye-varlik-fonu-genel-muduru-sonmez-katar-in-borsa-istanbul-icin-odedigi-200-milyon-dolar-hesaba-yatti,918014, December 1, 2020.
 Evrensel.net/haber/419784/son-olarak-borsa-istanbuldan-da-pay-alan-katarin-turkiye-yatirimlari, November 26, 2020; Cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/iste-son-10-yilda-katara-satilanlar-1794780, November 29, 2020; Hurriyet.com.tr/ekonomi/katar-seyhi-marmaris-te-bir-otel-daha-satin-aldi-28173002, November 2, 2015.
 Tr.euronews.com/2019/02/09/erdogan-tank-palet-fabrikasini-alan-firmanin-katar-ve-turk-ortakligi-var, February 9, 2019.
 Haberturk.com/istinye-park-a-katarli-ortak-2878762-ekonomi, November 23, 2020.
 Lojiport.com/antalya-limani-katarlilara-satildi-108868h.htm, October 21, 2020.
 Propertyturkey.com/blog-turkey/qatari-monarch-pays-euro-100m-for-istanbul-bosporus-yali, March 31, 2015.
 Sozcu.com.tr/2020/ekonomi/eski-merkez-bankasi-baskani-yilmaz-katar-ile-swap-ihtiyaci-karsilamaz-5825520, May 20, 2020.
 Cumhuriyet.com.tr/yazarlar/enver-aysever/katara-devredilen-ulke-1794885, November 30, 2020.
 Hurriyet.com.tr/gundem/enver-aysevere-1-5-yila-kadar-hapis-istemi-41661992, November 13, 2020.
 Sozcu.com.tr/2020/yazarlar/emin-colasan/katar-katar-satiliyoruz-6144327, November 28, 2020.
 See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 8439, Turkey's Government Sentences Six Turkish Journalists From Leading Opposition Daily 'Sözcü' To Prison, December 27, 2019.
 Sozcu.com.tr/2020/yazarlar/yilmaz-ozdil/katar-2-6144390, November 28, 2020.
 Hurriyet.com.tr/gundem/yilmaz-ozdile-hapis-cezasi-41660348, November 11, 2020.
 Sozcu.com.tr/2020/yazarlar/necati-dogru/sarayda-degildim-ama-hikayeyi-size-yazayim-6144301, November 28, 2020.
 Evrensel.net/yazi/87651/katarla-iliskiler-borc-alan-talimat-da-alir-asamasinda, December 1, 2020.
 Evrensel.net/haber/364390/yazarimiz-ihsan-caralan-ve-2-gazeteciye-ceza, October 25, 2018.
 Cumhuriyet.com.tr/yazarlar/baris-doster/katarin-turkiyeyle-ilgili-hesabi-ne-1794446, November 28, 2020.
 Cumhuriyet.com.tr/yazarlar/mustafa-balbay/katari-su-yonetimine-ortak-etmek-1795143, December 1, 2020.
 Sozcu.com.tr/2020/yazarlar/murat-muratoglu/katarin-turkiye-aski-6138258, November 24, 2020.
 Sozcu.com.tr/2020/yazarlar/murat-muratoglu/yolun-bundan-sonrasina-katarlilarla-devam-edecegiz-6144339, November 28, 2020.
 Twitter.com/RTErdogan/status/1332006786388402178, November 26, 2020.
 Haberler.com/erdogan-katar-in-borsa-istanbul-a-ortak-olmasina-13769580-haberi, November 30, 2020.
 Yenicaggazetesi.com.tr/ingiltere-su-yonetimine-katari-ortak-ediyor-mu-57589yy.htm, December 2, 2020.
 Evrensel.net/haber/420103/kilicdaroglu-o-cumhurbaskani-o-ulke-icin-artik-bir-milli-guvenlik-sorunudur, December 1, 2020.
 T24.com.tr/haber/chp-den-varlik-fonu-ve-katar-anlasmalari-icin-arastirma-onergesi,918093, December 1, 2020.
 Tele1.com.tr/chp-katara-satilan-sirket-ve-varliklari-tek-tek-siraladi-278408, December 1, 2020.