In a scene unthinkable just a decade ago, as ties between the countries frayed over Turkey’s support for Islamist groups in the Middle East, Erdogan pulled Sheikh Mohammed in for a big hug.
Erdogan’s trip on Tuesday marks his second trip to the United Arab Emirates this year as Turkey, diplomatically isolated and in desperate need of foreign currency and investment, seeks to mend fences with old enemies – including most recently with Saudi Arabia.
Since the coronavirus pandemic and the US withdrawal from the region, the United Arab Emirates has also changed its foreign policy, seeking detentes with rivals as bloody wars have helped fuel Yemen and Libya into a stalemate and the Iran is advancing with its nuclear program.
During Sheikh Mohammed’s visit to Ankara last fall, the United Arab Emirates pledged $10 billion to boost investment in Turkey. Ahead of Erdogan’s first state visit to the United Arab Emirates in nine years in February, the countries agreed to a currency swap equivalent to nearly $5 billion. Trading volumes jumped more than 54% last year compared to 2020.
It’s a stark reversal from the aftermath of the popular uprisings of 2011. Gulf Arab states have moved on Turkey’s membership of the Muslim Brotherhood, which they consider a terrorist group. Turkey and the United Arab Emirates have been vying for influence in the region, backing opposing sides in Libya’s civil war and a Saudi-led boycott of Qatar.
Erdogan was just the latest dignitary to travel to oil-rich Abu Dhabi to pay his respects. In a dramatic display of the UAE’s influence abroad, an extraordinary array of presidents, prime ministers and princes have descended on the sheikh over the past few days to pay their respects and praise the succession.