Insights

Turkey-UAE rapprochement: an opportunity for dialogue

The recent meeting in Ankara between Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Councillor for National Security of the Crown Prince of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, could open a new phase in international politics as well as new geopolitical dynamics in the broader Mediterranean area.

The recent meeting in Ankara between Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Councillor for National Security of the Crown Prince of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, could open a new phase in international politics as well as new geopolitical dynamics in the broader Mediterranean area. The two countries are working on a series of issues in different geographic contexts, from Libya to the Horn of Africa and Afghanistan, and a potential agreement between them could have far-reaching implications both on specific situations and, more in general, on the region’s stabilisation.

The rapprochement between Ankara and Abu Dhabi bears the mark of realpolitik, and it appears to put aside an ideological difference which has played out in all critical theatres of the region – from Egypt to Libya, from the Arabian Peninsula to Syria – for years. For this reason, it could potentially promote detente within the Sunni world.

These developments cannot be disregarded, nor can the European Union cannot be excluded from these attempts at dialogue. In fact, the EU should act as a catalyst in this process, focussing on international relations and geopolitics, as well as on economic and trade aspects.

For instance, the EU should envisage a Migration Compact to manage the possible increase in migration flows into Europe as a result of a new Taliban regime, and both Turkey and the United Arab Emirates have an interest in this.

At the same time, the rapprochement between Turkey and the United Arab Emirates could also facilitate European business interests – not just because regional stabilisation would promote greater prosperity, but also because it would create new, and deeper, economic and trade relations. Despite their differences, the objectives pursued by Turkey and the United Arab Emirates are somehow complementary. While Turkey is interested in exploiting its international projection to promote its companies, affected by the economic and financial crisis that hit the country, the UAE is more oriented to play a geopolitical role, with a special eye to security.

This is an issue of primary importance for Italy and the EU, as well as all countries in the broader Mediterranean region. The renewed wave of terrorist attacks carried out in the Sahel by groups like Al-Qaeda or Daesh, appears to be linked, if only in timing, with the resurgence of the Taliban Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan. The success of jihadists in Kabul could give these groups new inspiration and strength for their proselytizing activities. A potential domino effect would entail a risk for the whole Mediterranean region and this is one of the reasons why the EU has every interest in following the ongoing contacts between Ankara and Abu Dhabi.

The intelligence services of Turkey and the United Arab Emirates have just started talking to each other. The collaboration that could ensue could be a game-changer for several pending issues. Above all, it could be instrumental in the fight against terrorist groups whose activities haunt various strategic areas of the African continent and the Near East – and can, as we have seen in the past, spill over into Europe.

Amid all this, the US has a keen interest in ensuring stability in and around the Mediterranean basin. It is in this vein that the US has encouraged the Abraham Accords, signed by Israel and the United Arab Emirates in 2020, and the reconciliation at the GCC summit in al Ula, as a result of which the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and other countries resumed relations with Qatar (which had been severed in June 2017). Since Qatar is a crucial ally for Ankara, the resumption of Intra-Gulf relations allows Turkey to restart a strategic dialogue with other countries in the region, while the UAE can act as a facilitator.

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