Untapped Potentials: Oman and Turkiye

Opinion Tuesday 21/May/2024 20:47 PM
By: Bilal Bilici
Untapped Potentials: Oman and Turkiye
Bilal Bilici, is a leading member of the Turkish Parliament (Adana Province), and also Foreign Affairs Committee Member

The historical ties between Oman and Turkiye date back to the times of the Seljuk and Ottoman Empires. Oman is a country that emphasizes the importance of dialogue and peace, which made the country’s foreign policy exemplary for the global audience.

As two modern states, Türkiye and Oman have enjoyed friendly relations since establishing diplomatic ties in 1973. The dialogue that flourished during the period of Sultan Qaboos is further developing under the reign of Haitham bin Tariq. Oman, led by Sultan Qaboos for the past 50 years, stands as a beacon of stability.

Since its foundation, Oman has experienced significant economic development, transitioning from predominantly agrarian society to a modern economy. Under the wise leadership of Sultan Qaboos bin Said, the country invested heavily in infrastructure, education, and healthcare, laying the foundation for sustained growth.

Hence, the visionary, confident, peaceful, and humble strategy of Sultan Qaboos placed Oman on the international map, especially in the role of diplomacy, and laid the groundwork for future prospects.

Turkiye has been a bridge between the West and the East, serving as the crossroads of civilizations. As a NATO member, Turkiye boasts the second-largest military within the alliance.

Furthermore, as a G-20 member, and a long-term partner and a candidate for EU membership, Turkiye possesses a robust economy that has consistently ranked among the top 20 economies for decades. Since its foundation, Turkiye has been able to turn itself a regional powerhouse and an industry-based economy, in which the Turkish defense industry over the recent years, have had major achievements and reduced dependency on foreign arms imports.

Since the onset of the Ukrainian conflict, while performing an exemplary role in mediation and active diplomacy between Russia and Ukraine, Turkiye has been able to balance its position without siding with any bloc. Turkiye is among the few countries in the world that are able to engage in dialogue and establish channels of communication with both parties, bringing them to the table.

For example, it is highly valued when Oman played a pivotal role in de-escalating tensions and laying the groundwork for the historic JCPOA agreement in 2015 involving Iran, the P5+1, and the European Union.

One of Sultan Qaboos's aims was to find a balance between modernization and tradition while preserving the Omani identity and Islam. By maintaining neutrality, Sultan Qaboos enabled Oman to avoid getting involved in endless wars and to stay away from the erratic and irrational political competitions that have led to messy and complicated entanglements in the region.

Sultan Bin Tariq continues to enhance this vision. Basically, there have been no winners in wars, particularly in the Middle East region. Despite being home to various religious sects and tribes, Oman boasts an international reputation for being an ideal model of coexistence, tolerance, and harmony. These values and principles make Oman a natural partner for Turkiye in all aspects, from culture to defense.

The trade volume between Oman and Turkiye has surpassed 2 billion USD and holds even greater potential for growth in the future. Given that both countries have complementary sectors, it would be essential to consider that both nations would have much to gain from a Free Trade Agreement. Recently, in September 2023, Turkiye and the UAE commenced an FTA, marking a clear acceleration in bilateral ties.

A similar roadmap can be followed with Oman. Turkiye and Oman have complementary economies, not competing. While Oman also has an FTA with the United States, which Turkiye does not have, certain industries can turn this into an opportunity as semi-finished goods can be processed in Oman and find alternative markets in North America.

Trade between two nations which is currently limited to certain sectors and products, should be diversified to reach the preliminary target of a 5 billion US dollars trade volume. Oman’s top exports to Turkiye include fertilizers, chemicals, minerals, metals and petrochemicals, while Turkiye’s top exports to Oman are grains, cereals, machines, and chemicals. For overall, Oman’s exports and imports Turkiye ranks in the top 10 position.

On the other hand, in March 2024, Turkiye and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) signed a deal to launch negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA). The pact would lead to one of the world’s largest free trade areas, between Turkiye and members of the GCC, with a total value of $2.4 trillion.

The recent LNG (liquefied natural gas) deal between Turkiye and Oman, in which Oman will export 1 million tons of LNG per year for 10 years starting from 2025, is a strong indicator of Turkiye’s desire to diversify its dependency on natural gas from Iran and Russia. Oman’s LNG exports to Turkiye could further enhance bilateral relations. However, since energy prices are critical for Turkish end-users and industries, this deal has to be a win-win for both parties.

In recent years, particularly in the defense industry, we have witnessed the signing of several deals between Turkiye and Oman. The HAVELSAN-Masireh International joint venture is an excellent example of the cooperation between our countries. Turkish defense companies such as TUSAŞ and Baykar can have an opportunity to market drones to Oman, as other GCC countries such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Qatar have been lucrative clients.

Cultural exchange and people-to-people interactions are also vital aspects of our bilateral relations. Turkish television dramas have gained immense popularity not only around the globe but also in Oman, with millions of Omanis having fond memories and experience of watching the Turkish soap operas such as Hareem Al Sultan, Fatima, Kurtulus and Kuzey.

According to the Oman News Agency, more than 130,000 Omani tourists visited Turkiye in 2022. In December 2023, Turkiye lifted the visa requirement for Omani citizens, which will facilitate travel between the two countries and enhance social contact among people who share millennium-long historical, religious, and cultural ties.

Both Turkiye and Oman have played crucial intermediary roles in bridging Iran and the US, utilizing backdoor diplomacy, particularly evident during the Iranian nuclear deal negotiations.

Both Oman and Turkiye can help with de-escalation with the ongoing conflict in Gaza and play a constructive role. Both countries are aware and have capabilities to prevent the spill-over tensions from Gaza war in the region.

It would not be impossible to imagine if Oman one day plays an instrumental role in Syria as this problem remains as a frozen and complicated conflict. The future presents immense untapped potential that the two countries shall strive to realize.

From economic cooperation to cultural exchange and diplomatic initiatives, there are numerous opportunities for further collaboration and mutual benefit. It is imperative that both nations remain committed to realizing this potential and work together towards a future of shared
success, peace and prosperity.