The Hong Kong Telegraph - Turkey's Erdogan visits UAE to boost long-strained ties

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Turkey's Erdogan visits UAE to boost long-strained ties
Turkey's Erdogan visits UAE to boost long-strained ties

Turkey's Erdogan visits UAE to boost long-strained ties

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday visited the United Arab Emirates for the first time in nearly a decade to revive relations that were long strained by regional disputes.

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He was greeted in the capital Abu Dhabi by Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the UAE's de facto ruler, who had travelled to Ankara in November on the first high-level visit to Turkey since 2012.

That trip "marked the beginning of a new era in relations", Erdogan said at Istanbul airport before leaving for his two-day visit. "We are planning to take steps that will bring relations back to the level they deserve."

Ties had been strained as Turkey and the oil-rich Emirates backed opposing sides in the Libyan civil war, and sparred over issues such as gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean.

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

The Turkish president's UAE visit is his first since 2013, when he was prime minister, and his first as head of state.

To greet Erdogan on his trip -- which will take him to the Expo 2020 Dubai world fair Tuesday -- the host country lit up the world's tallest building, Burj Khalifa, in the red and white of the Turkish flag.

Erdogan and Sheikh Mohammed oversaw the signing of 13 cooperation agreements and memoranda of understanding, including a letter of intent on cooperation in the defence industries, according to the UAE's official WAM news agency.

Other areas of cooperation included health, technology, climate action and crisis and disaster management, among others, the news agency said.

- 'Shared vision' -

The crown prince said the UAE was keen to cooperate with Turkey "to confront a number of common challenges that the region is witnessing" through dialogue and diplomatic resolve.

The UAE faces a growing threat from Yemen's Iran-backed Huthi rebels, who have launched several drone and missile attacks on the Gulf country, prompting it to step up defence cooperation with the United States and France.

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

Following Sheikh Mohammed's visit in November, the UAE announced a $10 billion fund for investments in Turkey, where the economy has been reeling and inflation last month surged to a near 20-year high.

Erdogan's trip "will open a new, positive page in bilateral relations", Anwar Gargash, adviser to the UAE president, said in a tweet.

UAE Economy Minister Abdulla bin Touq Al-Marri said his country considered economic cooperation in various areas, including defence, 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 defence sector," he told state news agency Anadolu in remarks published Monday.

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

Last month, he 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.