Turkey, UAE make efforts to launch new era in ties
At a time when all eyes were on Afghanistan after the Taliban’s takeover of power, Ankara hosted a senior official from the United Arab Emirates that came as a surprise to many due to long-term row in the bilateral ties.
UAE’s national security advisor, Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan, was received by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Ankara on Aug. 18. Statements made from both sides informed that the two men discussed regional issues of mutual concerns and boosting investments. To note, Sheikh Tahnoun is the brother of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, known as MBZ.
Erdoğan, in a televised interview on the same day, hinted he may speak with MBZ as well, giving the impression that he discussed this possibility with the visiting senior UAE official. He informed that more investment from the UAE may flow in Turkey in the coming period which would strengthen the bilateral ties.
Meanwhile, Anwar Gargash, the diplomatic adviser to UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan who advocates for good ties with Turkey, hailed the meeting as “historic and positive.”
Sheikh Tahnoun is the highest level UAE official paying a visit to the Turkish capital in years. It reflects the UAE’s positive response to Turkey’s attempt to normalize its relations with the UAE and the Gulf in general. Ties between the two countries were severely strained because of Turkey’s harsh criticism against the 2013 coup staged by Egypt’s Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who was politically and financially supported by the Gulf.
A visit by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu in April 2016 had sought to leave the chill in ties behind, but things have derailed completely after the July 2016 coup attempt by the FETÖ in Turkey. Many government officials accused the UAE of orchestrating the coup against Erdoğan’s government. But, now, all these seem to be left behind.
As known, Turkey launched a wide campaign for mending its broken ties with Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Israel after a long period of coldness. This campaign gained impetus after the removal of the embargo on Qatar by the Gulf countries earlier this year.
Turkey has dispatched a senior delegation to Egypt to discuss a potential road map for the normalization of the relations while Benjamin Netanyahu’s departure from the government paved the way for building a new understanding with Israel.
The rare visit by the senior UAE official should be read in this larger picture. It’s an important step, but questions will continue to linger because of the differing interests of Turkey and the UAE in different conflict theaters, such as Libya, Syria and Somalia, etc.
Take Libya, for instance. Turkey and Egypt-UAE duo have long been pit against each other in Libya as they support rival groups. One can sense that both sides are mulling to pursue a more flexible stance because of the ongoing reconciliation efforts and in the light of looming elections in the North African country.
All the relevant parties, including the United States, have long been exerting efforts to break the stalemate between the rival groups and their foreign supporters by assuring a gradual withdrawal of all the foreign powers in due time.
From this point of view, the ongoing peace process in Libya will also constitute a very important test in terms of relations between Turkey and the UAE.