Turkish President Visits UAE to Boost Long Strained Ties

Austin Delsontro
Staff Writer

On February 14, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited the United Arab Emirates for the first time in nearly a decade in an attempt to revive relations long strained by regional disputes, Barron’s reports. President Erdogan was welcomed in the capital Abu Dhabi by the de facto ruler of the UAE, Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, for the second meeting in three months between the Middle Eastern nations, after years of hostility over the role of Islamist groups in the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings.

For years, relations have been strained between Turkey and the UAE as both nations have backed opposing sides in regional conflicts and quarreled over other issues in the eastern Mediterranean, explains Al Jazeera. In recent years, the relationship between Turkey and the UAE became particularly tense when Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain cut all ties with Qatar, a close Turkish ally, in 2017.

Communications between the UAE and Turkey were restored in January 2021, though some hostility remained. Those tensions eased after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed traveled to Turkey in November, the first high-level visit since 2012 where trade agreements worth billions of dollars were signed, elaborates France24.

President Erdogan believes the November meeting marks the beginning of a new era in Turkish-UAE relations. Before leaving for Abu Dhabi, France24 quotes President Erdogan as saying, “We are planning to take steps that will bring relations back to the level they deserve,” later adding that dialogue and cooperation between Turkey and the UAE are “important to the peace and stability in our region.”

During the first day of President Erdogan’s visit, the two leaders signed 13 co-operation agreements, The Financial Times details. One such agreement included the intention to launch negotiations over a free trade deal known as a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA). The United Arab Emirates’ Economy Ministry claimed when speaking with the Financial Times that their goal with Turkey is a bilateral economic partnership to be reached within six months to a year. Such a partnership would increase trade from $13.7 billion last year to $30 billion in the next five years. Even without a deal in place, the UAE’s Economy Ministry anticipates two-way trade between the two nations to surpass $20 billion over the same time frame.

Reuters discusses how improving diplomatic relations can be mutually beneficial for both nations as Turkey faces economic turmoil and as the UAE pursues a foreign policy driven heavily by its economic priorities. Just last month the two countries agreed on a nearly $5 billion swap deal in local currencies. Furthermore, President Erdogan’s visit occurs as Yemen’s Houthi rebels threaten the UAE’s security after recently launching a series of attacks on the Gulf nation prompting increased defense cooperation with Western allies.

When discussing the recent warming of diplomatic relations Bloomberg explains Turkey’s recent financial turmoil has sent the Turkish president’s popularity plunging. Turkey has been battling inflation of close to 50 percent, causing its currency to lose as much as half its value against the dollar before the government intervened at the end of December to stifle the drop in value. President Erdogan has sought since last year to improve Turkey’s relations with regional rivals due to recent economic isolation, specifically from Western nations, which caused foreign investment to disappear, discusses Al Jazeera.

Bloomberg reasons that the growing challenge from Saudi Arabia to the United Arab Emirates’ standing as a global business and financial hub is the motivation behind the increased desire for trade between the two nations. The UAE has sought other economic partnerships with several nations across the globe as they wish to cement their position as a global trade hub. Discussions have been started with nations like India, Indonesia, Israel, and Georgia, and with plans to pursue a relationship with the Philippines, all in addition to this partnership with Turkey.

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