Turkey and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) recently failed to reach agreement on a free-trade agreement (FTA) that has been under discussion since 2005 and that Turkish leaders had hoped would be signed by the end of the year. In an e-mail interview, Hugh Pope, Turkey/Cyprus project director for the International Crisis Group and author most recently of "Dining with al-Qaeda: Three Decades Exploring the Many Worlds of the Middle East," discusses Turkey-GCC relations.
WPR: How would you characterize political relations between Turkey and the GCC member states?
Hugh Pope: The political relationship between Ankara and the GCC is very warm, at least on the surface. Turkish and GCC foreign ministers have met regularly since signing a high-level strategic-dialogue agreement in September 2008. Gulf newspaper commentators have praised the new regional role of Turkey -- which is mainly Sunni Muslim -- as a rising power in the region that might balance the clout of Shiite Muslim Iran. Among intellectuals, there is a fascination with Turkey's ability to have a democratic and legitimate government that has fostered prosperity, begun negotiations to join the European Union and seen off the ideological sicknesses of Middle Eastern states -- authoritarianism, Islamism, militarism and nationalism.