The de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates arrived in Turkey for the first time in almost a decade, ushering in a thaw in one of the region’s most difficult relations and driving the Turkish lira.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, was greeted by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and a marching band as he arrived at the presidential palace in Ankara, where the two leaders were expected to discuss investment and regional policy. .
The lira, which lost nearly 12 percent of its value against the dollar on Tuesday amid growing fears over Erdogan’s management of the economy, bounced back as much as 10 percent as markets boosted the outlook for Emirati investment in Turkey. a time when western capital was scarce.
Sinem Cengiz, an analyst on relations between the Turks and Gulf, described the meeting as a landmark moment for the geopolitics of the region. “The visit symbolizes a turning point in relations between Turkey and the UAE after a decade-long feud,” she said.
The two states have found themselves on opposing sides in conflicts and competing for influence across the region since popular uprisings rocked the Arab world in 2011, and their bitter rivalry echoed from the oil-rich Gulf to the Horn of Africa and the conflict in Libya.
The talks between Erdogan and Sheikh Mohammed, one of the Arab world’s most influential leaders, are a further sign of a tentative shift towards de-escalation in the Middle East than the election of US President Joe Biden and the economic unrest caused by the coronavirus pandemic. urged regional leaders to recalibrate their foreign policy.
The UAE shifts its focus to economic diplomacy as it seeks to boost its post-pandemic recovery, while Erdogan seeks to restore ties with local rivals while facing strained relations with Western powers.
“Both countries realized that, after being at each other’s throats for 10 years, neither side struck a knockout blow and it was time to unwind,” said Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a Dubai-based professor of political science. science, said.
Turkish authorities hope the high-level visit will serve as an incentive for Emirati’s investment in their country. “Investors in the UAE will be motivated by improving political relations,” said one Turkish official.
The two nations are expected to sign a series of agreements for investment in energy, technology and health as well as ports and logistics, according to Turkey’s state-run TRT news service. Reuters news agency reported that Turkey’s central bank governor also met with Emirati officials to discuss the potential for a swap deal that would boost the country’s foreign exchange reserves.
Analysts warn that many of the underlying issues remain at the core of their dispute. Relations became strained when Turkey and its Gulf ally Qatar supported the Arab uprisings in 2011. The autocratic monarchies in the UAE, and its main ally, Saudi Arabia, saw the revolutions as a threat to regional stability and their own hold on power.
Abu Dhabi and Ankara supported opposing sides in Libya’s civil war, and UAE officials spoke out against what they saw as Turkey’s interference in Arab affairs.
When Saudi Arabia and the UAE imposed a trade and travel ban on Qatar in 2017, Turkey accelerated the deployment of troops to a military base in Doha in a muscular display of support for its closest Arab ally. But tensions began to ease after Saudi Arabia lifted a travel and trade boycott of Qatar earlier this year.
In the months since, Turkey has been trying to reach out to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Israel as well as the UAE. Trade and investment have declined over the past decade from heightened tensions between Turkey and the UAE. Cengiz said: “The main theme of this approach is economics: realpolitik has surpassed idealpolitik.”