Turkey UAE cooling relations in hot summer

Tension is brewing in relations between Turkey and the United Arab Emirates

Turkey is one of the UAE’s largest trading partners, with USD 9 billion in annual bilateral trade volume. The relations between the two states had, in the past, been based on good levels of respect and dialogue that endured for many years. Important advancements had been initiated to develop political, economical and cultural relations. However, despite previous good relations between Turkey and the UAE, there have recently been a few events that have led to a sudden increase of tension in the relationship.

The cumulative value of investments between both Turkey and the UAE had previously reached to around 12 billion dollars. Trade between the two nations was also booming with leading products being exported from Turkey to the UAE including iron-steel, gold and electric devices. However, in spite of the two states having enjoyed good political and economic relations since the 80’s, some recent events have highlighted what could be seen as the beginning of a breakdown in relations between both countries.

Tensions in the relations between Turkey and the UAE were first seen when Turkey condemned the coup d’état of the first former democratically elected Egyptian President, Mohamed Morsi, during the summer of 2013. Turkey’s views and response to the coup differed significantly to the views possessed by the UAE, and since this realisation, a period of coolness has existed in the relations between the two states.

The UAE is against the Muslim Brotherhood, the political Islam based organization that Morsi led in Egypt, and was among the first Arab countries to welcome Morsi’s removal. Since the coup, the UAE has pledged USD 6.9 billion in aid to support Egypt.

Turkey, however, condemned the lack of international response to the overthrow of President Morsi and the legitimisation of the people behind the coup. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has made it clear that he believes in respecting the choices of the people at the ballot box and since the legitimisation of the coup has even questioned why the United Nations exists.

The United Arab Emirates, on the contrary, is a close ally and major backer of the current Egyptian President Abdelfatah Al-Sisi’s government and believes that Turkey’s views on Egypt are worthy of denouncement. The UAE has since urged Turkey not to interfere in Egypt’s internal affairs, while Turkey has labelled the UAE’s criticism of Erdoğan views as being ‘unacceptable’.

Since the summer of 2013, Khalid Khalifa al-Mualla, the UAE’s highest-level diplomat in Turkey, has been absent from his post – reflecting the UAE’s reaction to Turkey’s foreign policy and views on the situation in Egypt. Since the ambassador has left the country, the UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has neither instructed al-Mualla to return nor appointed a new ambassador.

Trade relations have also declined between the two states, with a decline in imports and exports being recorded between the two countries in recent months.  The UAE also suspended a USD 12 billion investment in a coal-based energy project in Turkey a few weeks after Turkey’s criticism of the Egyptian military coup.

Although both states have previously enjoyed good relations, it seems as though unless Turkey reconciles with Egypt, the current poor relations between Turkey and the UAE will continue to deteriorate both politically and economically.