Turkish President Erdogan to visit UAE to bolster political, economic ties

DUBAI (AFP): Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visits Monday the United Arab Emirates for the first time in nearly a decade, as ties improve between the two countries.

Turkey and the energy-rich Emirates have suffered from years of difficult relations, backing opposing sides in regional conflicts, and sparring on other issues such as gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean.

But tension eased after Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed travelled to Ankara in November on the first high-level visit since 2012.

Following that visit, the UAE announced a $10 billion fund for investments in Turkey, where the economy has been reeling and inflation has surged to a near 20-year high in January.

The two countries also signed 10 security, economic and technological agreements, according to the official UAE news agency WAM.

Erdogan’s visit, the first since 2013, “will open a new, positive page in bilateral relations”, Anwar Gargash, adviser to the UAE president, said in a tweet.

Abdul Khaleq Abdallah, a political science professor in the UAE, tweeted on Sunday that the two countries should aim to bolster a “strategic political partnership”.

Erdogan’s visit comes as the UAE faces a growing threat from Yemen’s Iran-backed Huthi rebels, who have in recent weeks launched a series of drone and missile attacks on the Gulf country and prompted increased defence cooperation with the United States and France.

“I believe that Turkey and the UAE together can contribute to the regional peace, stability and prosperity,” Erdogan said in a op-ed in the Emirati English-language daily Khaleej Times.

“As Turkey, we do not separate the security and stability of the UAE and our other brothers in the Gulf region from the security and stability of our own country.

“We believe wholeheartedly in the importance of deepening our cooperation in this context in the future,” he added.

Ties between the Turkey and the UAE were particularly tense after Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain cut all links with Qatar — a close ally of Ankara — in 2017. Relations were restored in January 2021.

Erdogan has since last year sought to improve ties with regional rivals in the face of increasing diplomatic isolation that has caused foreign investment to dry up — particularly from the West.

In the op-ed published this weekend, he said Turkey wanted to advance cooperation with the UAE on several fronts, including “climate change, water and food security”.

“This cooperation will have positive reflections not only in bilateral relations but also at the regional level,” he added.