Recently, there has been remarkable diplomatic activity by the United Arab Emirates with the neighboring countries of Turkey, especially Lithuania, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Croatia, amid its strained relations with Turkey.
In fact, the UAE and Turkey have fallen out after adopting opposing positions during the Arab Spring, specifically over Egypt. While Ankara gave full backing to the democratically elected Mohamed Morsi, Abu Dhabi did all it could to topple him and backed Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who assumed power after carrying out a coup.
The UAE Media outlets describe Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a “dictator” while the media in Turkey raise questions about human rights and media freedom in the UAE.
A Turkish journalist known for his close ties to the government, Mehmet Acet, has accused the United Arab Emirates of financing Turkey’s failed coup attempt in July 2016. The UAE channelled around $3bn to coup plotters and was keen to see Recep Tayyip Erdogan toppled, according to Mehmet Acet.
Also, the recent Gulf-Qatar crisis has contributed to worsening relations between the UAE and Turkey, especially after the latter’s support for Qatar against the blockade imposed by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt on the tiny Gulf country.
This raises questions on the intention of the UAE’s diplomatic activity with Turkey’s neighboring countries, including:
On Tuesday 11 July, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation paid an official visit to Lithuania, where he met with the Minister of Interior of Lithuania, Eimutis Misiunas. During the meeting, the two sides discussed bilateral relations and means of enhancing them. They also exchanged views on a number of regional and international issues of common concern.
The UAE Foreign Minister noted that his country and Lithuania are witnessing rapid development in bilateral relations, reflecting both countries genuine desire to take them to a higher level. Misiunas welcomed Sheikh Abdullah’s visit to Lithuania, stressing the distinguished relations his country enjoys with the UAE, and his country’s keenness to continue enhancing them. Following the meeting, Sheikh Abdullah and Misiunas signed a Memorandum of Understanding to allow the recognition of driving licenses between the two countries. The meeting was attended by Dr. Youssef Al Sabri, the UAE’s Non-Resident Ambassador to Lithuania.
– On Wednesday 12 July, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, met with Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico on Wednesday at the Bratislava Palace. On his arrival at the Palace, H.H. Sheikh Abdullah was received by Robert Kalinak, Slovakia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior. During the meeting, which was held as part of Sheikh Abdullah’s official visit to the country, the two sides discussed means of enhancing relations of friendship and cooperation between the UAE and Slovakia in various fields, including in the political, economic, social and cultural sectors in the interest of the peoples of the two countries. The two sides also exchanged views on a number of regional and international issues of common concern.
Abdullah bin Zayed affirmed the UAE’s keenness to continue in strengthening its cooperation relations with the Slovak Republic and to lift them to new and higher levels. The Slovakian Prime Minister welcomed Bin Zayed’s visit to his country, stressing the importance of enhancing mutual relations in all fields. The meeting was attended by Hamad Ali Al Kaabi, UAE non-resident Ambassador to Slovakia.
– On Thursday 13 July, Mohammed Mir Abdullah Al Raisi, Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation received Special Envoy of Bulgaria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ekaterina Zaharieva, at the ministry. The Bulgarian envoy handed over a note from Zaharieva for Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, dealing with bilateral relations between the two friendly countries. The two sides also discussed ways to enhance cooperation between the two friendly people as well as a number of issues of mutual concern.
– On Thursday 13 July, Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, met with Croatian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Marija Pejcinovic Buric. They discussed ways to enhance bilateral relations between the UAE and Croatia, and exchanged views on latest regional and international developments and issues of mutual interest. Bin Zayed highlighted the distinguished ties and mutual keenness on boosting them in all fields. Buric welcomed the visit of Sheikh Abdullah, stressing her country’s desire to bolster cooperation between the two sides. Addressing a joint press conference after their meeting, Abdullah bin Zayed said, “We held fruitful bilateral discussions and reviewed the strong ties between the two countries and ways of strengthening them in various fields as well as a number of important international issues on the global arena.” He confirmed the strong friendship ties between the UAE and Croatia, which are celebrating 25th anniversary of their establishment, wishing more development in relations in the future. The UAE Foreign Minister noted that today, there are more than 1500 Croatians living in the UAE who are contributing to the cultural boom of the state. He added that 14,000 Croatian tourists visited the UAE in 2016. Bin Zayed also expressed his confidence that UAE-Croatian relations will grow into wider prospects and more cooperation. He extended thanks to the Government and people of Croatia for warm welcome and hospitality.
Buric expressed her happiness at receiving Sheikh Abdullah and his accompanying delegation, noting that Croatia and UAE are celebrating silver jubilee of establishing their bilateral relations. She added that they also discussed issues related to developing economic cooperation between the two countries as well as the latest international developments, especially in Libya and the illegal immigrants crisis. She also expressed her happiness at the Emirates Airline’s decision to operate seven weekly flights between Dubai and the Croatian capital. She also pointed out at the Natural Gas project being developed in Croatia, which she said could be a good investment opportunity for the UAE. Non-Resident Ambassador of the UAE to Croatia, Ali Al Ahmed attended the meeting.