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Turkish president in UAE as relations thaw after icy decade

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES (AP) – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan travelled on Monday to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a trip signalling a further thaw in relations long strained over the two nations’ approaches to extremists in the wake of the 2011 Arab Spring.

Erdogan arrived in Abu Dhabi, the Emirati capital, following a November visit to Turkey by the country’s de facto leader, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Sheikh Mohammed, also Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince, greeted Erdogan at the airport and oversaw an honour-guard welcome for the Turkish president at the Al-Watan Palace. A thundering gun salute heralded his welcome as every major Emirati minister stood alongside. Later, even electronic billboards in Dubai praised the UAE and Turkey’s “strategic” relationship.

Neither Sheikh Mohammed nor Erdogan addressed journalists. The visit marked Erdogan’s first visit to the UAE since 2013. Before taking off from Turkey, Erdogan said he hopes his visit advances the “big potential” of trade between the countries.

The UAE is an important economic market for Turkey and home to many Turkish citizens.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan arrive at Qasr Al-Watan in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. PHOTO: AP

He also said Sheikh Mohammed’s earlier visit represented a “new phase” of relations between the nations.

Anwar Gargash, a senior Emirati diplomat, similarly tweeted that Erdogan’s visit “opens a new positive page in the bilateral relations between the two countries”.

It “is in line with the UAE’s direction towards strengthening bridges of communication and cooperation aimed at stability and prosperity in the region”, he wrote.

For the two nations, the visit caps a monthslong rapprochement born out of the coronavirus pandemic and geopolitical necessity.