ISTANBUL—Several Saudi companies are finalizing plans with Turkish logistics companies to transport cargoes to Qatar, according to Turkish businessmen, an arrangement that illustrates how profits are being made even as diplomatic relations in the region continue to simmer.
Turkish companies have been a major beneficiary of the continuing spat in which Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt have broken diplomatic and some commercial ties with Qatar in protest at what Riyadh has claimed is Doha’s “financing, adopting and sheltering extremists.”
Qatar has called the measures unjustified and denied interfering in the domestic affairs of other members of the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council.
Turkey’s increasing reliance on business with the Gulf Arab states, especially in lights of Ankara’s deteriorating relations with its European allies, is a major reason why President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is working to mediate the dispute that has destabilized regional energy, retail and air markets, officials and analysts say. So far, Turkish diplomacy hasn’t adversely affected business on either side of the dispute, according to Turkish businesses.
Teksan Lojistik, one of Turkey’s largest logistics companies, says its orders have jumped 110% since the political crisis erupted on June 5. General manager Serdar Aydin said clients booking shipments are mainly Turkish companies selling to Qatar firms, but that he is also negotiating with several large Saudi companies that are trying to honor contracts with Qatari clients but that have found themselves blocked from sales or deliveries by Riyadh’s embargo on Doha.
He said that his company is negotiating the delivery of 50-60 tons of Saudi products, and the main issue delaying Saudi transshipments is a lack of capacity on boats or cargo planes. “We are having a problem to find space in flights to deliver goods,” Mr. Aydin said.
Cargo space is completely full for all orders to Qatar right now, according to Mr. Aydin and other Turkey-based logistics companies. He said capacity should open up next week, after the religious Eid holiday.
Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci said that 105 Turkish cargo planes have delivered goods to Qatar so far, where public service ads have popped up on social media explaining the Turkish words for basic goods like milk for the Arab-speaking Qataris.
As Turkey’s diplomatic relations with Europe soured, its attention towards the Gulf has grown, both as a destination for Turkish exports and as a source of foreign direct investment.
Mr. Erdogan earlier this spring made a pitch for a free trade pact between Turkey and the GCC, as many major Turkish companies do roaring businesses across the Gulf.
Turkey’s trade volume with Qatar hit $710 million last year, and trade with Saudi Arabia was $5 billion, according to data from the Turkish Statistics Institute.
Turkey also relies heavily on both Saudi Arabia and Qatar to achieve its foreign policy goals in the Middle East. Both nations fund Turkish-backed rebel forces in Syria, and both nations have expressed support in President Erdogan’s purges of so-called Güenists and other political dissidents.
So far this month, President Erdogan has spoken with the Saudi, Emirati and Qatari rulers, and his cabinet ministers have engaged in several rounds of shuttle diplomacy.
The Turkish leader has been one of the most outspoken allies of Doha. Turkey deployed approximately two dozen troops to Qatar earlier this week as part of a military base agreement with Doha that Turkey’s strengthened in the wake of the political crisis. Ties between the two nations have been deep for several years, including in the business sphere.
Despite this, Saudi partners to major Turkish businesses haven’t stepped back from their projects or contracts in response to the crisis, according to several Turkish business leaders.
Last month national flag-carrier Turkish Airlines also launched its new direct summer flights from Saudi Arabia to multiple tourist destinations in Turkey. Last year, approximately 530,000 Saudi tourists visited Turkey, making them a huge revenue stream for Turkish tourism and retail businesses.