Turkey bounced back with the first visit of a UAE ruler in a decade

The de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates visited Turkey for the first time in nearly a decade, thawing one of the region’s toughest relations and bolstering the Turkish lira with a promise of a $10 billion Emirati investment.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and one of the most influential leaders of the Arab world, met Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the presidential palace in Ankara.

Sheikh Mohammed later tweeted that the two had fruitful talks that focused on ways to strengthen relations between our two countries. I look forward to exploring new cooperation opportunities to benefit our two countries and advance our common development goals.”

The lira, which on Tuesday lost nearly 12 percent of its value against the dollar amid growing concerns about Erdogan’s management of the economy, rebounded as much as 10 percent as markets rejoiced at the prospects for Emirati investment in Turkey at a time when the West was in the dark. Capital is scarce.

Sinem Cengiz, an analyst on Turkish-Gulf relations, described the meeting as a historic moment for geopolitics in the region. She said that the visit symbolizes a turning point in Turkish-Emirati relations after a decade-long feud.

The two countries have vied for influence across the region since the popular uprisings that rocked the Arab world in 2011, and their bitter rivalry has spread from the oil-rich Gulf to the Horn of Africa and conflict in Libya.

The talks are another sign of a tentative shift toward de-escalation in the Middle East as the election of US President Joe Biden and the economic turmoil caused by the coronavirus pandemic have prompted regional leaders to recalibrate their foreign policies.

The UAE is shifting its focus towards economic diplomacy as it seeks to boost its recovery after the outbreak of the pandemic, while Erdogan wants to repair relations with his regional opponents while facing strained relations with Western powers.

“Both countries realized that after being at each other’s throats for 10 years, neither side suffered a fatal blow, and it was time to disengage,” said Abdul Khaleq Abdullah, a professor of political science in Dubai.

The two countries signed a series of economic cooperation agreements, including a memorandum of understanding between Abu Dhabi Development Holding Company (ADQ) and the Turkish Wealth Fund. ADQ is one of the newest and most active government investment vehicles in Abu Dhabi. ADQ CEO Mohammed Hassan Al-Suwaidi told the Turkish state-run Anadolu news agency that the UAE has allocated $10 billion to Turkey.

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The deals are expected to include investments in energy, technology and health as well as ports and logistics, according to Turkey’s state-owned TRT news service. Turkey’s central bank governor is also meeting with UAE officials to discuss the possibility of reaching a swap agreement that would boost the country’s foreign exchange reserves, Reuters news agency reported.

Analysts warn that several fundamental issues at the core of their dispute remain unresolved. Relations were strained when Turkey and its Gulf ally backed the Arab uprisings in 2011. The autocratic monarchies of the United Arab Emirates and their main ally, Saudi Arabia, saw the revolutions as a threat to regional stability and their hold on power.

Abu Dhabi and Ankara have backed opposing sides in the Libyan civil war, and Emirati officials have criticized what they see as Turkey’s interference in Arab affairs. When Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates led a trade and travel ban against Qatar in 2017, Turkey scrambled to deploy its forces to a military base in Doha in a strong show of support for its closest Arab ally. But tensions began to subside after Saudi Arabia moved to lift the regional boycott of Qatar at the beginning of the year.

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