In the first high-level meeting in a decade between United Arab Emirates and Turkish leaders, Emirati Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the Turkish capital Ankara on Wednesday, opening a new chapter of bilateral relations between Ankara and Abu Dhabi.
Bin Zayed, known as MBZ, and Erdogan signed cooperation and investment agreements worth billions of dollars in trade, energy, technology, banking and investments.
“The UAE announced the establishment of a $10 billion fund to support investments in Turkey,” WAM, the official Emirati news agency, said.
The fund will reportedly prioritize strategic long-term investments in fields such as the energy and health sectors. WAM reported that the overall purpose of the massive new fund is “to support the Turkish economy and boost bilateral cooperation between the two countries.”
This investment represents more than just an economic alliance, but an important reconciliation between the two nations and perhaps a willingness on Turkey’s part to distance itself from the Muslim Brotherhood.
At the center of the nearly decade-long rivalry between Turkey and the United Arab Emirates are conflicting visions of the Muslim Brotherhood and its place in the future Middle East. While the UAE has sought to minimize the influence of the radical terror group, Erdogan has emerged as one of the Muslim Brotherhood’s strongest supporters, angering Egypt as well. Erdogan’s support of radical Islamic groups in the region includes the terrorist organization Hamas, an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.
Turkey’s embrace of the Muslim Brotherhood was part of the Erdogan’s vision of transforming his nation into the dominant power in the Middle East. But Turkish support of the Muslim Brotherhood instead served to strain Turkey’s relations with the Arab world and led to Ankara’s increased regional isolation.
Amid growing unpopularity domestically and a national economic crisis, Erdogan has been forced to reassess Turkey’s foreign policy.
And Emirati officials have perhaps sensed opportunities emanating from Turkey’s increasingly vulnerable position.
After Wednesday’s meeting, Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, UAE’s minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, described Turkey as a “great natural partner” and claimed that the two governments “share a similar outlook and agree on a range of strategic topics.”
The Emirati minister shared his vision for future bilateral relations in an interview with the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT).
“As we celebrate our Golden Jubilee, partnerships and building bridges will continue to be central to our next 50-year development plans. So, we are laser-focused on prioritizing sustainable economic growth and prosperity alongside regional and global partners,” Jaber said.
He also noted that the UAE has already emerged as Turkey’s largest trading partner in the Middle East having increased exports to Turkey by more than 110% and total trade by 21% in 2020.
From the Turkish government’s perspective, the improved diplomatic ties with the UAE and the prospect of massive UAE investments in Turkey’s ailing economy could not have arrived at a better time.
The Turkish Lira reportedly plunged to new record lows against the American dollar on Wednesday and has been steadily weakening against other main currencies, having lost around 40% of its value since the beginning of 2020.
While the weakened Turkish lira is causing considerable economic problems in Turkey, at the same time it presents unique opportunities for UAE businesses seeking lucrative and cost-efficient foreign investments. In other words, the weak Turkish Lira makes Turkey a more attractive market for Emirati and other international investors seeking to maximize their profits.