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Turkey and the United Arab Emirates: From Cooperation to Rivalry

Michael B. Bishku


This article will review Turkey’s political and economic relations with the United Arab Emirates from the establishment of ties upon the latter achieving independence from Britain to the present through the changing regional and international scene of the Cold War and post-Cold War periods. While Turkey did not pay much attention to the Gulf region initially, the situation changed following the establishment of the Gulf Cooperation Council in 1981 and Turgut Özal becoming prime minister two years later. Özal was a devout Muslim and sought to boost ties with Middle Eastern countries while reaping economic benefits, but his efforts were not as extensive as they have become under the Justice and Development Party (AKP), which came to power in 2002. The AKP regards Turkey as a leading force in promoting the interests especially of Sunni Muslims in the Middle East and the rest of the Islamic world. Despite constructive bilateral efforts at political and economic cooperation, the AKP’s connections with the Muslim Brotherhood have complicated Turkey’s relations with the UAE, as the latter has been concerned with its indigenous Islamist group al-Islah. Since the overthrow of Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi, a political rivalry has developed between the two over differing regional perspectives.

Keywords: Turkey, UAE, foreign policy, Middle East, Islam, politics, economy

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pp. 184–199