Turkey and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have signed 13 cooperation agreements in various sectors as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited the Gulf country on Monday amid the normalization process between the two regional powers.
The bilateral agreements signed during Erdoğan's visit to the UAE, the first in a decade as the two countries are mending ties strained by years of animosity in a pivot toward economic partnership.
Agreements on the defense industry, health, climate change, industry, technology, trade, economy, culture, agriculture, trade, economy, youth, transportation, disaster management, meteorology, communication and archive were signed during the meeting between the Turkish and UAE delegation chaired jointly by Erdoğan and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (MBZ).
Turkish sources had said they were expected to agree to officially begin negotiations for a trade and economic agreement, as well as sign a letter of intent to start meetings on cooperation in the defense industry.
According to the Turkish Presidency, Erdoğan said: "The complementary structure of the economies of the two countries actually points to a potential far beyond the current figures."
"The purpose of our visit is to quickly realize this potential," he added.
Erdoğan and MBZ discussed opportunities for cooperation, particularly in the economic and development fields, and the latest regional developments, said the official WAM news agency.
MBZ hailed the agreements and memoranda of understanding signed by the two countries during Erdoğan's visit to the UAE.
The agreements, the crown prince said, "laid the foundation for the launch of fresh economic and trade partnerships between the two countries, stressing the UAE's keenness to strengthen this partnership and push it forward during the coming period to double the volume of trade exchanges between the two nations."
The crown prince said the UAE was keen to cooperate with Turkey "to confront several common challenges the region is witnessing" through dialogue and diplomatic resolve.
The Emirates face a growing threat from Yemen's Iran-backed Houthis, who have launched several drone and missile attacks on the Gulf country, prompting stepped up UAE defense cooperation with the United States and France.
Erdoğan said in a weekend op-ed in the Emirati English-language daily Khaleej Times that "Turkey and the UAE together can contribute to regional peace, stability and prosperity."
The president, in his op-ed, also said he wanted to work more closely with the UAE on several fronts, including tackling "climate change, water and food security."
President Erdoğan's "significant visit would create further momentum to strengthening cooperation and building a new prosperous phase of partnerships for the higher good of the two countries, their peoples and all the nations of the region," the state-run Emirates News Agency quoted MBZ as saying.
The two leaders "reviewed the prospects of further consolidating bilateral relations and advancing cooperation and joint work between the two nations in various fields in addition to the latest regional and international issues and developments of interest," the news agency said.
Appreciating Ankara's "friendly position" and its condemnation of Houthi attacks on the UAE, the crown prince also wished "continued security, stability and prosperity" in Turkey.
The crown prince also conveyed Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan's wishes for "continued good health and happiness to the Turkish president and more stability, progress and prosperity for his country," according to the news agency.
The crown prince said his country "welcomes every step on the road to cooperation, understanding and peace in the region" in the spirit of "strengthening cooperation and coexistence to achieve development, prosperity and stability."
He highlighted the UAE's keenness "to cooperate with Turkey to face the multiple common challenges witnessed in the region through dialogue, understanding, consultation and diplomatic solutions."
A cooperation protocol on media was also signed by Turkey's Communications Director Fahrettin Altun and UAE Government Media Office head Saeed Al Eter.
The protocol aims to increase friendly relations between the two countries and to develop relations in the fields of media and communication.
According to the protocol, the two countries will encourage mutual visits of representatives from the media and communication world every year in order to get to know each other's current economic, political, cultural and social lives more closely and to exchange views on communication activities.
There will also be mutual internship and training opportunities to young journalists, media members and technical staff of the two countries.
"Today, we signed a cooperation protocol in the ‘Media and Communication Fields' between the Republic of Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. With this important protocol, the two countries will join forces in the field of media and communication," said Altun on Twitter.
Erdoğan is in the UAE for a two-day visit at the invitation of MBZ. Abu Dhabi's crown prince greeted Erdoğan at the airport and oversaw an honor-guard welcome for the Turkish president at the Al-Watan Palace. A thundering gun salute heralded his welcome as every major Emirati minister stood alongside. Later, even electronic billboards in Dubai praised the UAE and Turkey's “strategic” relationship. To greet Erdoğan on his trip, the host country lit up the world's tallest building, Burj Khalifa, in the red and white of the Turkish flag. Erdoğan will visit the ongoing Expo 2020 Dubai world fair on Tuesday.
Erdoğan, who last visited the UAE in 2013, also told a news conference at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport before leaving that Turkey and the UAE started a new era in bilateral relations with the visit of the Abu Dhabi crown prince to Ankara last November on the first high-level visit to Turkey since 2012.
The Abu Dhabi crown prince's visit led to the announcement of a $10 billion-fund for investments in Turkey. Both countries also signed several agreements on energy, environment, finance and trade. Last month the two countries agreed on a nearly $5 billion swap deal in local currencies.
"During this visit, we aim to develop the momentum we have captured with the United Arab Emirates and to take the necessary steps for ties to go back to the level they deserve," Erdoğan told reporters at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport before he departed.
"The dialogue and cooperation of Turkey and the United Arab Emirates carries great importance for the peace and stability of our entire region," he added.
Erdoğan said that during his visit, Turkey and the UAE would seek to boost bilateral trade and seek opportunities in "the complementary structures of the two countries economies."
Anwar Gargash, a senior Emirati diplomat, tweeted that Erdoğan's visit “opens a new positive page in the bilateral relations between the two countries."
It "is in line with the UAE’s direction toward strengthening bridges of communication and cooperation aimed at stability and prosperity in the region,” he wrote.
UAE Economy Minister Abdulla bin Touq Al Marri said his country considered economic cooperation in various areas, including defense, an integral part of its strategy and vision of the future.
"I believe that this is a vision shared by both the UAE and Turkey, and the UAE is keen to expand its partnership with Turkey in various vital fields in addition to the defense sector," he told Anadolu Agency (AA) in remarks published Monday.
On Sunday, Turkey's Communications Directorate announced that bilateral relations between Turkey and the UAE, and steps to deepen cooperation would be discussed during Erdoğan's visit.
The two sides will also exchange views on regional and international developments with an understanding of establishing and maintaining peace and stability in the region. Erdoğan will also visit the Expo 2020 Dubai on Tuesday, where Turkey's national day will be celebrated.
Ties between Turkey and the Arab world are experiencing a major thaw after years of tense relations. Last month Erdoğan said he would visit Saudi Arabia in February, the first trip to Riyadh since relations soured over the 2018 murder of Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi inside the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul.
Turkey-UAE trade topped 26.4 billion dirhams ($7.2 billion) in the first half of 2021. 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, WAM said.
The two countries have seen their ties affected by regional tensions, including the conflict in Libya, where the UAE and Turkey have backed opposing sides in recent years.
Turkey last year accused the UAE of bringing chaos to the Middle East through its interventions in Libya and Yemen, while the UAE and several other countries criticized Turkey’s military actions. Relations hit an all-time low when Erdoğan said that Ankara could suspend diplomatic ties with the Abu Dhabi administration after the UAE-Israel deal.
Turkey also sided with Qatar in a Gulf dispute, at odds with the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, while Turkish support helped Libya’s United Nations-backed government in Tripoli drive back UAE-supported forces attempting to seize the capital. However, 2021 saw Turkey seeking warmer ties with several regional countries and longtime foes after many tumultuous years.
Converging interests have driven regional power shifts in the Middle East, mainly led by regional powerhouses Turkey and the UAE. The diplomatic maneuvering signals a growing realization across the region that the United States’ interest is moving elsewhere and that now is the time for negotiations that were unthinkable just a year ago.
The prince’s visit to Turkey was 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 last 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. Erdoğan had reiterated that Turkey hopes to maximize its cooperation with Egypt and Gulf nations "on a win-win basis," at a time when Ankara intensified diplomacy to mend its fraught ties with Cairo and some Gulf Arab nations after years of tensions.
"Turkey believes that the future of the region should be shaped on the basis of economic cooperation and political dialogue," Altun wrote in an article for the Emirati daily Al-Ittihad on Saturday.
Altun said Turkey is pleased to see that the UAE shares the same vision and is ready to work with Ankara for a more stable and prosperous region.
"As Turkey and the UAE, we believe that regional economic cooperation, both at the bilateral and multilateral levels, can be the basis for the needed stability and peace in the region," Altun wrote. Altun expressed his belief that both countries are committed to boosting regional cooperation and creating new investment opportunities to cultivate constructive economic ties.