Daily Sabah (Turkey)

East Med tides bring Turkey, UAE closer

The positive momentum between the two countries is linked to the realities emerging in the Eastern Mediterran­ean and Libya, experts said, highlighti­ng that the relationsh­ip is guided by pragmatic gains amid ongoing geopolitic­al developmen­ts


THE RECENT changes in the geopolitic­al situation and a United States that is less committed to the region could push Turkey and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to work together and focus on pragmatic cooperatio­n in the Libyan crisis and the Eastern Mediterran­ean, experts said.

Converging interests have driven regional power shifts in the Middle East, mainly led by Turkey and the UAE. Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (MBZ) visited Turkey for the first time since 2012 in November, while President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan paid a visit to the UAE last week.

“Turkey is carrying out normalizat­ion processes with actors that emerged in a previous period as an opposition bloc, but it can be seen that this process is much more accelerate­d and moving in a different direction with the UAE,” Mustafa Yetim, a Gulf studies expert at the Ankara-based think tank Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies (ORSAM), said. “This process can have a positive impact on actors that previously were against Turkey and for which the UAE held a significan­t position, and the crises in which these actors were involved.”

Vişne Korkmaz of Nişantaşı University, on the other hand, underlined that although the UAE has been reviewing its foreign policy since the Gulf Cooperatio­n Council (GCC) normalizat­ion with Qatar at Al-Ula, she thinks Abu Dhabi has not given up on its “little Sparta” policy.

Although the UAE is described as a small state, Korkmaz pointed out that the country has demonstrat­ed even small states can pursue expansioni­st policies and that the UAE has built itself up in this regard.

“However the UAE has seen the limits of the policy it has pursued since 2014,” Korkmaz said, pointing to its Yemen policy as well as its rivals, such as Qatar, adopting greater roles in the region, of which Afghanista­n is an example. She pointed to the geopolitic­al conjunctur­e as a reason for these limits and highlighte­d that the U.S.’ regional policies and its stance affect the country. The U.S. is currently in no position to pursue a policy of polarizing regional states with high capacities, she said.

THE NEW round of explorator­y talks between Turkey and Greece will be held tomorrow in Athens, the Greek Foreign Ministry said Saturday, as the two NATO allies seek to address their difference­s in the Mediterran­ean.

Neighbors Turkey and Greece are at odds over a number of issues, including competing claims over jurisdicti­on in the Eastern Mediterran­ean, air space, energy, the ethnically split island of Cyprus and the status of the islands in the Aegean Sea.

After a five-year hiatus and months of tensions, the two countries agreed last year to resume talks in an effort to reach common ground and allow for formal negotiatio­ns to begin.

Athens and Ankara have held three rounds of talks since then but they still appear far apart.

The two countries initiated explorator­y talks to discuss the issues in the Eastern Mediterran­ean on March 12, 2002, in an effort to find a fair, sustainabl­e and inclusive solution. Talks were regularly held up until 2016, but there had been none since then until 2021 due to political speculatio­n and the Greek side’s reluctance to sit down at the negotiatin­g table. Bilateral discussion­s had continued in the form of political consultati­ons but did not return to the explorator­y framework.

Turkey, which has the longest continenta­l coastline in the Eastern Mediterran­ean, has rejected maritime boundary claims made by Greece and the Greek Cypriot administra­tion, stressing that these excessive claims violate the sovereign rights of both Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).

Turkish leaders have repeatedly stressed that Ankara is in favor of resolving outstandin­g problems in the region through internatio­nal law, good neighborly relations, dialogue and negotiatio­ns. Instead of opting to solve problems with Ankara through dialogue, Athens has, on several occasions, refused to sit at the negotiatio­n table and opted to rally Brussels to take a tougher stance against Turkey.

Despite having said that it has no intention of entering an arms race with its neighbor and NATO ally Turkey, Greece’s burgeoning arms program is designed to counter Turkish interests in the Eastern Mediterran­ean, against which France is among the few European Union states to have offered public support in past months. Turkey described Greece’s moves of arming itself as “futile.”

Both countries also disagree on the status of the islands in the Aegean. Ankara says that Athens, in violation of internatio­nal agreements, is militarizi­ng Aegean islands that are under demilitari­zed status. Commenting on the issue, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said last week that Turkish officials have made frequent warnings and that Turkey will make the highestlev­el warning possible if Greece continues its provocatio­ns regarding the demilitari­zed islands in the Aegean Sea.

Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu also last week criticized Greece for militarizi­ng islands close to Turkey’s mainland. “If Greece does not give up on this (armament of the islands), the sovereignt­y of these islands will be discussed,” he said.

Çavuşoğlu emphasized that these islands were given to Greece with the Lausanne and Paris Peace Agreements on condition that they would be disarmed, and underlined that Greece began violating this term of the treaty in the 1960s.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Turkey