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Meeting between Erdogan and MBZ points to a new, pragmatic regional order

65 12 24

This week saw events play out in Ankara that would have been unthinkable not too long ago: Mohamed Bin Zayed, Abu Dhabi’s powerful crown prince and the United Arab Emirates’ de facto leader, flew out to Turkey to meet with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. After Wednesday’s meeting, the two countries inked billions of dollars worth of cooperation and investment agreements in trade, energy, technology, banking, and investments.

The last visit to Turkey by MBZ, as he is popularly known, was in 2012. In the ensuing decade, bilateral relations between the nations collapsed.

In the wake of the so-called Arab Spring, which felled Sunni Arab regimes across the Middle East, Erdogan began pushing a regional order rooted in political Islam, supporting the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Islamic Ennahda party in Tunisia. In this project, Turkey allied closely with the UAE’s neighbor Qatar, which also sought to expand its influence through Islamist movements.

The UAE, seeing the Muslim Brotherhood as a concrete threat to its own internal stability, viewed the emerging Turkey-Qatar network as its foremost adversary in the region, a more pressing threat even than that posed by Iran. Abu Dhabi sought to counter Turkey’s emerging Islamist network with an alliance of its own, based on a moderate, pro-Western model.

Turkey, meanwhile, fought back on the ideological front. Ankara pushed the narrative that it represented democratic rule against authoritarian monarchies in the Gulf and — after Egypt’s Abdel Fatah el-Sissi led a 2013 military coup against Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi with the backing of the UAE and its Gulf allies — against military regimes like in Cairo.

Relations reached a nadir in the wake of the 2016 military coup attempt against Erdogan. Turkish intelligence sources then accused the UAE of funneling money to the plotters through former senior Palestinian official Mohammed Dahlan, believed to be a close confidant of MBZ.

The rivalry bled out across the region.

In 2017, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Egypt blockaded Qatar, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism and aligning too closely with Turkey and Iran. Senior UAE officials were especially strident in their denouncement of a new Turkish military base in the peninsular country. In 2020, UAE State Minister for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said that “The Turkish army in Qatar is a source of instability in the region. Our region needs no regional protectors or the reinstatement of old colonial ties.”

The crisis was eventually resolved earlier this year.

In Libya’s civil war, the UAE and Egypt backed General Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army while Turkey supported the rival Government of National Accord, even sending troops to intervene.

The UAE has also sought to join the EastMed Gas........

© The Times of Israel

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