On August 18, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan receiving the UAE’s National Security Advisor Tahnoun Bin Zayed in Ankara along with news of this visit brought up burning questions about whether the ice between the two countries has begun to melt.
An even bigger surprise came right after this meeting, as Erdogan held a phone call on August 31, this time with the UAE's number one, Mohammed Bin Zayed (MBZ).
Naturally, the reasons and background of this outreach, carried out by the Abu Dhabi administration, which has played a role in almost all the “below the belt” strikes aimed at overthrowing the Erdogan government in Turkey since the Gezi events in 2013, and which was involved in funding coup attempts in the country, naturally piqued everyone’s curiosity.
Erdogan elaborated on the nature of this surprise development in a television program he appeared on (a joint broadcast by Channel 7/Ulke TV/Tv Net/24Tv) on August 18, just a few hours after his meeting with Tahnoun Bin Zayed, who is also Mohammed Bin Zayed's brother. He made the following statement:
"Such ups and downs can happen between states, and they have in the past. Similar ones were experienced here as well. As of now, we have reached a certain point that we have held some meetings with the Abu Dhabi administration, especially our intelligence organization, for about a few months." he said.
These meetings and statements show that the administrations in Ankara and Abu Dhabi are moving with a renewed will to close the books on the previous period and turn over a new leaf.
So how did we get here?
What was going on behind the scenes?
On top of all this, is there enough forward momentum to normalize relations?
The impression I got that, up to this point, serious negotiations were carried out over intelligence units, as in Erdogan's above-quoted statement.
Although the results have just been announced, backdoor diplomacy has been ongoing for a significant time.
I have heard murmurs about this from my informed circles:
“Things were worked out, discussed, negotiated, and an agreement was reached.”
So what kind of deal is it?
According to what I was told, the following method was adopted:
First of all, the least common denominators were highlighted instead of the more contentious issues. A road map could be determined on which subjects to tackle first during discussions. Respectively, both sides acted in accordance to the win-win principle. There was a mutual will that bones of contention must not impede both sides from being able to turn over a new leaf.
This must be the reason why the first order of business was the economy, trade and investment.
That is, prior to wading through more contentious areas, starting from a place that will benefit everyone.
If you’ve been closely following the latest developments, you’d know Ankara has been making peaceful foreign policy overtures towards the West, the Middle East and the Gulf since late 2020.
It is possible to credit these initiatives to both efforts to overcome certain crises that have become no longer bearable, and the desire to protect/guarantee the gains made in foreign policy, especially in Libya and Karabakh.
It would also be wrong to view Joe Biden coming to office independently of this process.
But this does not only ring true for Turkey, but for countries such as the UAE as well.
One of the decisions the Biden administration made as soon as he took office was to remove the United Arab Emirates from the F-35 program.
Biden also drew the line on Yemen and decided to temporarily halt arms sales to both the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
There is no way that this approach adopted by President Biden did not rattle the Abu Dhabi administration.
This may be one of the reasons why they decided to cooperate instead of being at odds with Turkey.
This rapprochement between Ankara and Abu Dhabi is expected to positively impact the efforts aimed at normalizing relations between Ankara and Cairo that had started a while ago.
Because the UAE holds significant sway on the current administration in Cairo.
A few days ago, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that the second round of talks between Turkey and Egypt will be held in Ankara on 7-8 September.
Isn't it remarkable though in terms of timing that such an announcement came right after the steps aimed at the normalization of ties with the UAE?
Then I asked if these developments will positively impact the quest for normalization between Turkey and Egypt.
And the answer I got was a clear “yes.”