Turkey and the Arab world choose cooperation over conflict

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A changing geopolitical landscape has led both Ankara and its former golf rivals to rethink their policies on one another.

Relations between Turkey and the Arab world are experiencing a strong thaw after years of strained relations – a rapid rapprochement that took place within a year.

In attempts to improve relations with Saudi Arabia and Egypt earlier this summer, the Middle East saw another seismic geopolitical shift after Turkey and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) decided to abandon their differences and find a new side in their bilateral relationship.

The visit of Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (MBZ) of Abu Dhabi to Ankara in November to meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan led to the announcement of a $ 10 billion fund to invest in Turkey, including several agreements to promote cooperation in sectors such as energy and health.

Erdogan then said on Monday, before setting out on a two-day trip to Qatar, that he welcomed “the resumption of dialogue and diplomatic efforts to avoid misunderstandings in the Gulf region”.

“We will continue to develop our relations with our golf brothers indiscriminately within the framework of our common interests and mutual respect,” emphasized the Turkish President.

Quicksand

Ankara’s relations with Abu Dhabi, Riyadh and Cairo have been anything but cordial in recent years.

After the failed coup in July 2016, Turkey pointed to the UAE’s cooperation in initiating the failed attempt.

Relations have deteriorated further after Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt blocked Turkey’s ally Qatar in 2017.

Frosty Turkish-Saudi relations would plunge into a nosedive following the assassination of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul in 2018.

Tensions were further fueled by country involvement in regional conflicts and support from other parties. The Syrian civil war, the conflicts in Yemen and Libya and the political change in Tunisia turned into confrontations.

Last year, Turkey accused the UAE of destabilizing the region through its involvement in Libya and Yemen, while Abu Dhabi and other Arab states criticized Turkey’s military and political actions. The differences of opinion extended to the eastern Mediterranean as well.

This distrust was of course most evident after the Arab Spring uprisings a decade ago, when perception of threats to the Gulf monarchies peaked when popular uprisings overthrew autocratic regimes.

The Gulf monarchies supported the counterrevolutionaries during the uprising, while Turkey encouraged the initiatives and efforts of the peoples of the region who called for democratization and supported forces committed to overthrow the region’s autocrats.

This has led to an “aggressive, security-oriented approach” that sees Turkey as a major threat, said Gonul Tol, director of the Middle East Institute’s Center for Turkish Studies.

But now the Arab trio of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt have come to the realization that an aggressive foreign policy approach after the Arab Spring did not work, Tol added.

The UAE and Bahrain meanwhile took steps to normalize relations with Israel, signaling that the Gulf was moving towards a new security-oriented approach as US hegemony in the region began to wane.

TRT editor-in-chief Yusuf Erim believes that amplified diplomatic overtures “should not be viewed in isolation, but rather as part of a larger picture showing changing dynamics in the region”.

“The election of US President Joe Biden, the lifting of the GCC blockade against Qatar, the attack on Aramco” [in Saudi Arabia]”A possible return to the nuclear deal with Iran” are some of the events that have accelerated rapprochement, he said.

Erim referred, among other things, to the withdrawal of Washington from Afghanistan and the focus of the Biden government on China as an impetus for the formation of new alliances.

Economic diplomacy

One of the reasons for efforts to normalize relationships is the economic benefits for all involved.

There are good reasons for this, especially given the pandemic-induced disaster that has experienced many economies around the world.

Ankara is looking for reliable foreign investment to accelerate liquidity flows, and the Gulf States are also looking for profitable investments. This creates a win-win situation for the region.

Qatar is already providing Turkey with currency swaps worth 15 billion foreign currency reserves.

Import-oriented economies in the Gulf also have deep ties to a huge market like Turkey, which has a solid manufacturing base.

The Istanbul Finance Center, a groundbreaking project that is expected to go into operation in mid-2022, has recently aroused great appetite for investment from Arab countries.

“I see Turkey as a bull market that will rise. Foreign interest is quite high, especially in real estate, financial technology, information technology, agriculture, manufacturing, industry, health, education, banking, and finance. We’re working on six or seven major projects, ”said Izzat Dajani, vice chairman of the Egyptian investment advisory firm Capital Compass.

Dajani emphasized that in the face of major global production and logistics disruptions following the pandemic, Turkey offers an attractive foreign investment landscape thanks to its strategic location, business opportunities, pool of skilled workers and competitive exchange rate.

But will economic interests be enough to cover up political differences?

Some observers suggest that over time the focus will be on addressing and resolving problems and, although regional cooperation will increase, some level of competition and mistrust may persist for a while.

Personal animosities that have built up over the years would make a return to normalcy more difficult and could be limited to a de-escalation of their rivalry, said Galip Dalay, a scholarship holder of the German Institute for Security and Politics.

“This is most evident in Libya, where neither of them has really changed their position but has not actively escalated,” he said Al Jazeera.

Source: TRT World

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