From favourite place in Doha to Türkiye’s mediating role: DN’s exclusive with Turkish ambassador to Qatar – Doha News

The diplomat spoke to Doha News in an exclusive in-depth interview.

After years of working in the business sector, Mustafa Göksu found himself in a diplomatic seat in Doha in 2020, where he serves as Türkiye’s ambassador to the Gulf state.

“I came here as an ambassador during Covid-19 and there were no major interviews at the time. Of course, it had its pros and cons. In terms of pros, it allowed me to learn more about domestic matters and gave me more time [to adjust],” Göksu told Doha News at his residence in Qatar.

Upon entering the house where Göksu resides with his family, one finds themselves in a space wherein every corner is embroidered with pieces of Türkiye. From mosaics of the Bosphorus, the incandescence of the red Turkish flag and the strong scent of coffee, the place stands out with its unique representation of the culture.

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But Göksu is no stranger to the Gulf region as he spent most of his life in Saudi Arabia, where he studied and served as a representative of the The Investment Office of the Presidency of the Republic of Türkiye in the Gulf states.

“I’ve been in this region for 30 years. I came to Saudi Arabia in 1989 and never left the region. I never say that I hope to live in Canada, Europe or America, but if I came to this world more than a thousand times I would not live in any other region,” said Göksu.

Describing the people of Qatar, the envoy summarised his thoughts in two words: “generous” and “open”.

“I consider the majlis here a big school, because there is an exchange in culture and history that you would not find in a text book. If you merge all of these, in Qatar you find a place of peace, education, and personal development,” he said.

Outside of his diplomatic suit, Göksu spends most his time walking in Katara, where he finds comfort before the sunset.

“Obviously there’s Msheireb and Souq Waqif, but Katara is my favourite place. We as diplomats also enjoy events at Katara. Every day there are new places and thank everyone that built those projects, especially his Highness the Amir,” he mused.

‘Unique’ bilateral ties

As a diplomat in Qatar and Türkiye, Göksu spoke about the significance of the two countries’ deep-rooted bilateral ties.

“Qatar and Türkiye’s ties are exceptional and unique. The ties of most countries are based on their individual interests, but [our] ties go beyond this. The ties are described as ‘a friend in need is a friend indeed’,” he said.

The two countries have sided with one another in a multiple situations.

Türkiye was quick to send food shipments and deploy its troops to Doha when Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt imposed an illegal land, air and sea blockade on Qatar. On the other hand, Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani was the first to speak to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the failed coup attempt on 15 July, 2016, where some 251 civilians were killed and more than 2,000 others were injured.

“The people of Türkiye and its leadership will not forget Qatar’s role. This gives us, as Qatari and Turkish officials, a great responsibility,” said Göksu.

“We say the Turkish and Qatari relations are exceptional, distinguished and strong. We have a history in Qatar, and thank God we are all proud of this history,” added the diplomat.

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Economically, the two countries have strong business ties. Currently, there are some 711 Turkish companies operating in Qatar as bilateral trade hits billions of dollars.

As countries with shared cultural and Islamic values, they cooperate in the field of culture and education.

“There are now 1,600 students from Qatar, boys and girls, women and men, studying in Türkiye, and we want to develop these relations for future generations. This year 30 students from Türkiye have also come to Qatar University,” he said.

Diplomatic cooperation

Diplomatically, Doha and Ankara have cooperated on a number of global issues.

Shortly after the Taliban takeover of Kabul on 15 August, 2021, the two countries sent technical teams to repair the Afghan capital’s airport. The Hamid Karzai International Airport was up and running by early September for civilian flights.

“We have a similar view when it comes to foreign policy matters, such as Afghanistan […] as you know, 40 million people have lived under war for more than 40 years there and this is not easy,” he said.

More recently, the two countries held talks with the Taliban-led government over running Afghanistan’s airport. Göksu said that the two countries have submitted proposals to the interim government and they might visit Kabul soon.

Türkiye has also been stressing the importance of preserving the rights of women and girls, in which the interim government has yet to fulfil some of the promises it made since assuming office.

“These issues are not resolved overnight […] the Taliban told us that they are increasing the number of female students and women at workplaces every once in a while. According to what we hear, there is progress, but not as we expected,” he stated.

Türkiye’s mediation between Russia and Ukraine

With the Russian invasion of Ukraine continuing to take place, Türkiye has stepped in as a mediator. A meeting between the two countries’ foreign ministers on the sidelines of the Antalya Diplomacy Forum also took place on Thursday.

“Russia and Türkiye have diplomatic ties and long-term contracts in various projects. Similarly, we have big projects with Ukraine. Our policy is that we need to find a political resolution,” he noted.

The ambassador said that Türkiye has defended Ukraine’s territorial integrity and is currently working on ensuring the escalations are resolved through dialogue.

“As you have heard, Ukraine thanked Türkiye’s president. Unfortunately, these events affect us and our policy is finding a diplomatic solution as soon as possible.”

Ankara shares a maritime border with both Moscow and Kyiv. It further blocked the passage of warships through the Turkish straits to the Black Sea, a move seen as an effort to contain ongoing escalations.

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Trilateral efforts in Syria

Last year saw the announcement of trilateral efforts by Türkiye, Russia and Qatar to reach a political resolution for the ongoing war in Syria.

The Bashar Al Assad regime, however, continues its violence and war crimes against Syrian civilians, seeing no end to the humanitarian crisis the country is engulfed in whilst still increasing the number of refugees attempting to escape a life under constant threat.

Since 2015, Russia has also been actively perpetuating massacres and war crimes in Syria, by targeting towns, hospitals and schools with bombs. Moscow announced that it has tested over 320 weapons in Syria, which have been the cause for thousands of deaths.

“The war does not benefit any side and we are the ones who bear the consequences of the Syrian crisis, as you know we have 4 million Syrian people consisting of refugees and non-refugees,” said Göksu.

Commenting on the trilateral initiative, Göksu said that diplomatic efforts are ongoing and the file remains a priority to the countries.

“There are people dying of starvation in Syria. We hope that soon the crisis in Syria will be resolved, a political solution will be reached, and the suffering of Syrians inside and outside Syria will end. God willing.”

GCC reconciliation

The signing of the Al-Ula Declaration on 5 January, 2021 was followed by shifting foreign policies by countries in the region, including that of Riyadh and Abu Dhabi towards Ankara.

At the time of the 2017 GCC crisis, the two Gulf countries had demanded that Doha severs its ties with Ankara and Tehran, which it did not concede to. This changed following the GCC reconciliation, wherein Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been re-engaging with Türkiye.

“We said why do we fight? Let’s talk because we care about the security of this region, we sit down and agree to maintain this diplomatic relationship,” Göksu said about the UAE.

“If there is something from the past, then we leave it in the past and open a new page for the sake of the people of both countries.”

Göksu said that President Erdogan is also set to visit Saudi Arabia soon, following the years-long heightened tensions between the two countries since the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

The Saudi journalist was killed in Saudi consulate in Istanbul by a hit squad under the approval of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), as found by US intelligence.

“This is not considered a crisis, but a cold period in the ties and it will pass like clouds do. We have long ties, Makkah is there, and the Saudi people have investments in Türkiye. I am positive [about this],” said the ambassador.

With Göksu serving as Türkiye’s envoy to Qatar, he aims to continue promoting strong bilateral ties and contributing to connecting the region in a sustainable and supportive manner, through his country’s foreign policy.

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