MBZ visit to Turkey indicates Middle East reshuffle

Following the historic visit of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (MBZ) to Turkey, many observers have started discussing the future of Turkey-Gulf relations. The visit was the first of its kind since the eruption of Arab insurgencies and revolutions in 2011. The visit, during which Turkey and the United Arab Emirates signed 10 agreements, all on economic and technical issues such as finance, trade, energy and the environment, marks a new era for both parties.

The visit was a direct result of regional and global changes. First, almost every country in the Middle East had to revise their foreign policy after Joe Biden was elected President of the United States. Upon coming to power, Biden said he would not give a blank check to the regional allies of the United States, namely the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, and that he would reverse the policies of his predecessor Donald. Trump in the region. In addition, Biden announced that he would drop maximum pressure on Iran to strike a new nuclear deal and try to improve bilateral relations with the country.

Why standardization began

In reaction, the countries of the region decided to ease the tensions. As a result, they have initiated large-scale standardization processes with their counterparts. The most important step was taken at the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit in January 2021 in Saudi Arabia. After Saudi Arabia announced the restoration of relations with Qatar, other partner countries also followed suit and decided to abandon their ambitious foreign policy initiatives. Eventually, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt signed a solidarity and stability agreement with Qatar to end the crisis and restore full diplomatic and economic relations with Doha.

Likewise, the Gulf countries have changed their regional foreign policy and put an end to their conflicting relations with other regional actors. Following on from the factors mentioned above, the countries of the region have decided to ease the tensions in the region, as an escalation would be mutually destructive. In this context, after normalization with Doha, other Gulf countries have also decided to re-establish their relations with Turkey. Ankara is also aiming to normalize its relations with other countries in the region to combat isolation. The reestablishment of its ties with the Gulf States will have a direct impact not only on policies in the Middle East but also on Turkey’s policies regarding the Eastern Mediterranean as actors such as the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt will be cautious in their cooperation with Greece in the Region.

Pragmatism and realism

Second, Turkey has pursued a more rationalist and pragmatic foreign policy, reflecting its national interests. Like other medium and large powers, Turkey pursues a sectoral foreign policy. That is, he has given up on the all-or-nothing approach in his relationships. Although it has dealt with crises with some states, such as the United States and Russia, Ankara still pursues cooperation.

Turkey intends to cooperate with the United Arab Emirates in the economic fields. As a result, he signed agreements with the UAE in the technological and economic sectors, while calling on the UAE to ease tensions and help end projects that undermine Turkey’s efforts to resolve crises. regional. Maintaining a zero-sum relationship is not sustainable for either party. Both countries must continue to take measures to encourage confidence building.

A new process was initiated with the visit of UAE National Security Advisor Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan last summer and the process culminated with the visit of MBZ. Both parties are determined to continue this process of reconciliation. In this context, the Turkish side has already declared that it will take further measures. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has announced that Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu will visit Abu Dhabi in December. After making some preliminary preparations, Erdoğan will also visit the United Arab Emirates in February. It appears that the visit will have a domino effect on Turkey’s relations with other states in the region. Certainly, given that the UAE has been the torchbearer of anti-Turkish initiatives for the past decade, this will speed up similar rapprochement processes with other Gulf countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. However, it remains to be seen how this process will influence controversies in regional crises like Syria, Libya and the Eastern Mediterranean.

All in all, after modifying global geopolitical conditions and regional balances, the states of the Middle East have decided to reassess their strategic calculations. Countries in the region have learned that there is no choice but to end the fierce rivalry in the region and work together. Understanding sectoral foreign policy will require both cooperation and competition between Turkey and the UAE in regional crises. However, the parties will be careful not to escalate the tension and find diplomatic means for the management of their bilateral relations.

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