Ankara and Abu Dhabi take a brand new start in their relations

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ANKARA: As part of Turkey’s recent normalization efforts, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to the United Arab Emirates should not only herald a new era in relations, but also bring more stability to the region as a whole.

Monday’s visit was the first high-level visit from the Turkish side since 2013, when the two countries were going through several crises related to regional conflicts and gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean.

In order to bring a ray of hope to this new relationship, the Gulf oil exporter aims to double or triple its trade volume with Turkey and reach the rest of the world markets using the logistic advantage and the supply chains of its new ally.

The day before the visit, Erdogan also wrote an op-ed for the UAE-based daily Khaleej Times, in which he stressed the importance of deepening bilateral cooperation in order to achieve peace, stability and regional prosperity.

He also noted that Turkey wants to strengthen cooperation on various aspects such as climate change and water and food security.

In late November, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed visited Ankara for the first high-level visit in nine years, during which the United Arab Emirates earmarked a $10 billion fund to strategic investments in Turkey’s cash-strapped energy and healthcare sectors.

During this visit, the two countries also signed several security, economic and technological agreements.

Beyond its contributions to foreign investment flows, the rapprochement between the two countries should ease Turkey’s regional isolation if Erdogan’s visit goes as planned.

Samuel Ramani, a research associate at the Royal United Service Institute, thinks Turkey and the United Arab Emirates are both trying to reduce the number of regional rivalries in which they are entangled.

“Turkey’s efforts to defuse with the UAE reflect its approaches to Saudi Arabia and Israel, while the UAE tries to portray itself as a regional power that relies on diplomacy and economic strength rather than on hard military power to achieve its goals,” he told Arab News.

According to Ramani, the risk of heightened tensions in the Black Sea and Eastern Mediterranean for Turkey, as well as the new threat from the Houthis/Iran in Yemen for the United Arab Emirates, could also explain the timing of de-escalation movements, even if they are under construction for some time.

Before Erdogan’s arrival in Dubai, the facade of Burj Khalifa lit up in the colors of the Turkish flag, with the Turkish national anthem playing in the background.

Experts also foresee untapped potential for bilateral cooperation in Syria and Libya, the latter going through a period of political transition after years of internal conflict.

“Although the alignment of policies on Syria and Libya does not appear as a precondition for the normalization of relations, these two subjects will be part of the bilateral agenda,” said Aydin Sezer, a political analyst based in Syria. Ankara, at Arab News.

“I believe that Turkey will quickly give the green light to such cooperation, which will relieve it of a heavy burden and give it a chance to reap the economic benefits of its presence in Syria,” he added.

Sezer believes that Turkey and the United Arab Emirates are likely to initiate investment efforts for Syria and Libya’s infrastructure projects.

“It will also offer Turkish companies and skilled labor the opportunity to participate in technical assistance. On the other hand, the ongoing rapprochement between Turkey and the UAE has completely ended the political confrontation in Libya and shifted towards a win-win relationship for the region,” he said.

Instead, Jalel Harchaoui, a researcher specializing in Libya, believes that over the past few years Turkey has achieved much of what it wanted to achieve – mainly through the use of military force – by Syria and Libya.

“Turkey is not eager to see its influence recede but, at the same time, it cares about the openness of the United Arab Emirates,” he told Arab News.

According to Harchaoui, Turkey is ready to accept a slightly more complicated reality in Libya and Syria as long as its efforts are somewhat reciprocated by the United Arab Emirates and a full-scale war – as seen in 2019 and 2020 – is avoided this year.

Ramani disagrees.

“Turkey and the United Arab Emirates continue to have irreconcilable interests in Syria and Libya. Syria is unlikely to be a hot theater for the UAE-Turkey competition. He was never excluded from the issue of recognition [Bashar] Assad, but as Libya tries to make difficult progress towards elections, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates will continue to compete,” he said.

However, Ramani also added that, for now, even in Libya, lower-intensity competition based on securing political influence and favorable economic deals seems more plausible than hot military conflict or proxy war. .

The oil-rich North African nation, which currently has two prime ministers, is already in political limbo and has not ended a decade-long instability and power vacuum as elections have been postponed. indefinitely.

The timetable for the new electoral process is expected to be announced this week.

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