In a wave of rapprochement, leaders from across the region have shook hands and waved each other’s flags. Will the relationship endure?
Middle Eastern leaders made state visits in 2022 that were previously unimaginable and smiled for pictures with once-hostile adversaries.
From Ankara and Cairo to Dubai and Doha, the goodwill was evident, extending from President Bashar al-Assad of Syria to the hereditary Persian Gulf rulers who had benefited financially from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Abdullah Baabood, a nonresident scholar at the Malcolm H. Smith International Center for Scholars, said, “This year the fatigue over disputes that have torn at the region for a decade kicked in.
“It’s a surprising turn of events, and it’s undoubtedly good for the area, which has been lacking in dialogue,” he continued.
The diplomatic blitz began in February when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan paid his first official visit to the United Arab Emirates in nine years. In April, Erdogan paid a visit to Saudi Arabia as a follow-up, and in Ankara, he hosted Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, a former adversary in the Persian Gulf.
Since the 2011 Arab Spring, when Erdogan sided with the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamists, and democratic movements that the absolute monarchies view as a threat to their rule, Turkey has been at odds with the Persian Gulf states. The hostility toward Saudi Arabia was at its height when Jamal Khashoggi was killed at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, a killing that was reportedly personally ordered by the crown prince.
However, analysts claim that this year, for Erdogan, who is running for re-election in June amid an economic crisis that has caused inflation to soar above 80%, the economy triumphed over ideology. Both Riyadh and Abu Dhabi have made investments in Turkey and pledged billions of dollars to support the country’s dwindling foreign exchange reserves.
According to Ken Katzman, a senior adviser at the Soufan Group, “the economy is a huge problem for Erdogan.” He is looking for a financial lifeline while also attempting to mend relations with the Gulf.”
On the opposing side of the conflict is Egypt, another financially troubled nation that has mended relations with former adversaries.
President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi was installed in office as a result of the Egyptian military overthrowing Mohamed Morsi’s democratically elected government, which was supported by Turkey and Qatar. Soon after, relations between the two nations deteriorated. Erdogan publicly questioned Sisi’s authority, and Cairo charged Qatar with meddling in its internal affairs and using the state-funded Al Jazeera news network to criticize it in the media.
Egypt joined a boycott of Qatar led by the Saudis in 2017 due to Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist movements that Riyadh and its allies deemed to be “terrorists.”. The allegations were refuted by Qatar.
In 2022, Erdogan is seen shaking hands with Sisi at the World Cup, and Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the ruler of Qatar, is seen grinning next to Egypt’s president in photos.
Qatar has pledged billions of dollars in investments and Central Bank deposits to support Egypt’s faltering economy, joining Saudi Arabia and the UAE in doing so.
In order to benefit from the rising energy prices brought on by the conflict in Ukraine and the petrodollars it generates, the Persian Gulf states are putting old resentments behind them. This will help them exert more influence over economically fragile nations like Egypt and Turkey.