The United Arab Emirates (UAE) Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (MBZ) is expected to visit Turkey next week for the first time in 10 years, two Turkish officials told Middle East Eye. The visit is expected to take place on Nov. 24 and will be a symbolic turning point after the UAE and Turkey agreed to improve relations last summer.
Daily Sabah reports that Turkish officials described MBZ's visit as the "beginning of a new era" following years of hostility after Ankara blamed the UAE for financing the 2016 coup plotters in Turkey and undermining Turkish interests in Libya.
One source familiar with the preparations for MBZ's visit stated that there has been an increasing Emirati interest in Turkish defense companies, which have established lucrative opportunities with indigenous production capabilities in recent years. The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and other Emirati companies are also reportedly interested in healthcare, fintech targets and other industries in Turkey.
Earlier this year, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan held a phone call with MBZ in which the two discussed relations between Turkey and the Gulf state. The two discussed their countries' relations and regional issues, according to a statement from the Turkish presidency. The statement did not say when the conversation took place. The UAE’s state-run news agency said the leaders “reviewed the prospects of reinforcing the relations between the two nations in a way that serves their common interests and their two peoples.”
Erdoğan previously said that the countries, which have been at odds in several issues, have made progress in bilateral relations in recent months. "Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's phone call with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed was very positive and friendly," UAE presidential diplomatic adviser Anwar Gargash said on Twitter. He said the contact between the two leaders was meant to open "a new phase" in relations as "the UAE seeks to build bridges, maximize commonalities and work together with friends and brothers to ensure future decades of regional stability and prosperity for all peoples and countries of the region."
The call came two weeks after Erdoğan hosted a top UAE security official and discussed investment in Turkey. UAE national security advisor Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s trip was the highest-level public visit by an Emirati official to Turkey in years.
In a televised interview on the same day, Erdoğan said the two countries had been in contact for several months at the intelligence level, which helped them reach the current level. He said the UAE will soon make "serious investments" in Turkey, noting that both countries have made progress in improving their bilateral relations in recent months. "For several months ... beginning with our intelligence unit, by holding some talks with the administration of Abu Dhabi, we have arrived at a certain point," Erdoğan had noted. "I am also considering meeting with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed," he added.
The two countries, which backed opposing sides in the conflict in Libya, have been bitter rivals for regional influence. Turkey last year accused the UAE of bringing chaos to the Middle East through its interventions in Libya and Yemen, while the UAE and several other countries criticized Turkey's military actions. Relations between Turkey and the UAE hit an all-time low when Erdoğan said that Ankara could suspend diplomatic ties with the Abu Dhabi administration after the UAE-Israel deal.
Turkish officials have said the UAE supports terrorist organizations that target Turkey, using the groups as convenient political and military tools abroad.
The UAE's aggressive foreign policy led it to be a part of a Saudi-led coalition in Yemen that launched a devastating air campaign to roll back Houthi territorial gains in 2015, further escalating the crisis in the war-torn country. In Libya, Abu Dhabi backed putschist Gen. Khalifa Haftar and tried to oust the legitimate United Nations-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA). In Syria, it supported the Bashar Assad regime in its offensive against democracy and civil rights.
And in 2017, Abu Dhabi was at the forefront of a regional embargo on Qatar, which the UAE and Saudi Arabia imposed after accusing Doha of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and being too close to Iran. In January, Abu Dhabi followed Saudi Arabia’s lead in lifting the regional embargo on Qatar.
In June, a report said that UAE seeks to restore ties with Turkey and other regional countries. Turkey has in recent months relaxed its tensions with a number of Arab states, such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Erdoğan had reiterated that Turkey hopes to maximize its cooperation with Egypt and Gulf nations "on a win-win basis," at a time when Ankara intensified diplomacy to mend its fraught ties with Cairo and some Gulf Arab nations after years of tensions.