With Turkey’s economy tanking and the lira going rapidly south, Turkish President Recep Tayip Erdogan arrived in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on February 14 for his first official visit in nearly a decade.
He was received by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed (MbZ), Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, along with Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, according to UAE state news agency WAM.
During his two-day visit, Erdogan is expected “to sign 12 agreements with UAE partners, ranging from media and communications to economic and defence deals,” Al Jazeera quoted Turkish media sources.
Accompanied by his wife Emine, the Turkish president is also expected to visit Expo 2020 Dubai for Turkey’s National Day of Celebrations on February 15.
At night, Burj al Khalifa, the UAE’s tallest structure, will be lighted with the flags of the two countries.
What could be more romantic than that as MbZ’s Valentine Day gift to Erdogan!
Bilateral trade between the two countries in 2020 reached $8 billion, making the UAE Turkey’s top trading partner among GCC countries.
In the first half of 2021, Turkey-UAE trade topped 26.4 billion dirhams ($7.2 billion).
The UAE hopes to double or triple trade volume with Turkey, which it sees as a route to new markets.
About 400 Emirati companies operate in Turkey, the UAE’s 11th largest trading partner, according to WAM.
Emirati officials have tried to put a positive spin on the visit hoping for some security guarantees in the face of recent Yemeni Ansar-Allah missile and drone attacks on the UAE.
These strikes have been carried out in retaliation for UAE attacks on the people of Yemen.
The Ansar-Allah have vowed more such strikes if the Emiratis do not withdraw their forces from Yemen.
Turkey has a well-developed weapons industry, especially helicopters and drones.
The Emiratis will seek this equipment that Turkey would gladly supply to earn some hard currency.
Relations between the two countries have been tense for a number of reasons. In July 2017, when the Saudis launched a boycott of Qatar, the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt and Jordan joined it.
Turkey and Iran came to Doha’s rescue. Not surprisingly, Turkish-Saudi and Turkish-UAE relations nose-dived.
Turkey and the UAE are also backing rival factions in war-torn Libya.
Relations were repaired when Abu Dhabi crown prince MbZ visited Ankara last November and met Erdogan.
During the visit, the UAE announced it was setting up a $10 billion investment fund in Turkey.
This was music to Erdogan’s ears, hoping to stabilize his country’s economy.
The UAE rulers hope that strengthening bilateral ties with Turkey will contribute to regional stability, prosperity and peace.
For “regional stability” read protection for the UAE from Ansar-Allah drone and missile strikes.
“Prosperity” of course is the carrot dangled before Erdogan.
Dr Anwar Gargash, diplomatic adviser to UAE President Sheikh Khalifa, said Erdogan’s visit to the UAE “opens a new positive page in the bilateral relations between the two countries, and is in line with the UAE’s direction towards strengthening bridges of communication and cooperation aimed at stability and prosperity in the region.”
Gargash is the official spokesperson of Emirati rulers and reflects their thinking.
Erdogan will no doubt return home pleased at having secured a life-line from the cash-flushed Emiratis.
He plans to visit Saudi Arabia as well this month.