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Can Turkey turn to the Arab world for economic support?

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The collapse of the Lira and the diplomatic row with the United States has sent Recep Tayyip Erdogan scrambling for help from his allies, including in the Arab world. However, experts say he may find support lacking.

The value of Turkeys currency, the Lira, nosedived over the weekend, hitting a record low to the dollar. While it recovered somewhat on Monday, all eyes remain fixed on Recep Tayyip Erdogan. As the latest drama unfolded, the Turkish president invoked the kind of outlandish and provocative rhetoric he has become known for in recent years. "If they (Americans) have dollars, we too have our people, our God, our Allah," Erdogan said on Friday. According to Hazim al-Amin, columnist at the Al-Hayat newspaper, remarks like that are only likely to alienate the Arab leaders Erdogan will need to turn to in his countrys tough times. Erdogans behavior is typical of populist politicians who like to utilize religious sentiments rather than secular politics guided by reason, said al-Amin. "This group includes Donald Trump, Benjamin Netanyahu, Vladimir Putin, Ali Khamenei and Erdogan," he explained. "They are all concerned with at least partially replacing politics with religion." 

Pastor spat hampers Erdogan Trump, like Erdogan, has riled European leaders with his harsh rhetoric, particularly when it comes to trade, said al-Amin, but the reaction there has been somewhat restrained in comparison. However, when it comes to the ongoing diplomatic strife between the United States and Turkey, fueled by the controversy surrounding US pastor Andrew Brunson, who is being held on terrorism charges, the US president may have met his match. "Catastrophe is inevitable," said al-Amin. 

According to Yunus Ulusoy from the Foundation Center for Turkish Studies and Integration Research in Essen, the whole affair has put Erdogan in a difficult spot. Theoretically, it is conceivable that the Turkish president will release Brunson, "but that would be a loss of face for Erdogan that would leave him little support from his followers," said Ulusoy, adding that such a solution is perhaps only probable in the long term. Friendly Qatar has struggles of its own Turkey maintains only limited economic relations with the Arab world and its prospects for trade in the region are also limited as a result, explained Mustafa Ellabad, director of the Al-Sharq Center for Regional and Strategic Studies in Cairo. "The Turkish-Arab partnership is overrated," he told DW. "Turkey exports mainly basic, unprocessed goods to the Arab world." Turkeys closest ally in the region is Qatar. The two states already-strong political ties — Turkey stations troops in Qatar, for example — were further deepened last year when Ankara backed Doha after it was diplomatically isolated by Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies. Turkey stepped in and provided Qatar with essential goods. However, to what extent Qatar, embroiled in its own diplomatic crisis, can now support Turkey remains to be seen. 

Although Ankara continues to maintain relations with other Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, they are very limited, said Ellabad. "If we compare trade relations between Turkey and Saudi Arabia, they are disproportionate to those which the Saudi kingdom maintains with the EU states," he said. Unfortunately for Erdogan, he may have to look elsewhere for help in solving his countrys current economic woes. He will find "no support for Turkey from the Arab states in this crisis," Ellabad said.

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