Turkey, UAE sign cooperation agreements as they mend ties

Ankara: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Abu Dhabi’s powerful crown prince oversaw the signing of several investment and cooperation deals on Wednesday, as Turkey and the United Arab Emirates move to repair relations and boost economic ties.

The agreements were signed during a visit by the crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who’s seen as the de facto leader and the force behind the UAE’s foreign policy posture.

It was his first official trip to Turkey since 2012, and the highest-level visit by an Emirati official since relations hit a low. The crown prince’s brother who is the UAE national security advisor, Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan, visited Turkey in August as the first major step toward mending strained ties.

The falling out between Ankara and Abu Dhabi reverberated across the Middle East, resulting in a proxy conflict in Libya, as well as tensions in the Gulf and in the eastern Mediterranean.

Tensions also played out on social media, with jabs and taunts by officials, state-aligned accounts and government supporters.

At the core of their tensions was Turkey’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood in the region, which the UAE and other Arab nations see as a top national security threat that could upend their hereditary rule and tight grip on decision making. Ankara, for its part, suspects that the UAE backed a network led by a US-based Turkish Muslim cleric which Turkey accuses of orchestrating a failed coup in 2016.

The crown prince was welcomed at the Turkish presidential complex in Ankara in a ceremony that included a 21-gun salute.

He and Erdogan later oversaw the signing of almost a dozen cooperation agreements, including in trade, energy and the environment, as well as deals allowing direct investments and cooperation between the two countries’ stock exchanges and central banks.

The prince’s visit to Turkey is viewed as part of a wider effort by the UAE to recalibrate its foreign policy following an unsuccessful attempt to isolate fellow Gulf state Qatar in 2017. Turkey, an ally of Qatar, rushed to support Doha amid an embargo imposed by the UAE and three Arab states. Turkey has since deepened its military ties with Qatar.

The Arab quartet at the time demanded a series of reversals by Qatar, including the expulsion of Turkish troops, but Qatar rejected the demands as violations of its sovereignty.

The dispute was resolved earlier this year with an agreement signed in Saudi Arabia.

Turkey is also engaged in an effort to mend its frayed ties with regional powers, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia, after finding itself increasingly isolated internationally.

Erdogan said after his meeting with Sheikh Tahnoun in August that he expected increased investments from the UAE in Turkey.

Turkey’s trade and finance ministers visited Abu Dhabi and Dubai on Tuesday, a visit that further helped set the stage for Wednesday’s top level meeting in Ankara.