Prepared by: Radwa Ramadan El-Sherif
Turkey welcomes the New Year and hopes that it will complete the steps of openness initiated by some countries or those initiated by its side. Turkish presidential representative Ibrahim Kalin confirmed that 2022 will be the year of “New regional initiatives and openness “, and will witness an acceleration in steps to improve relations with many countries, eliminating problems with the countries of the region, and ending tension in the regional files.
Turkey’s moves toward reconciliation with the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel escalated in its efforts to break its regional isolation in the past few months, but the big question now is whether Ankara’s efforts to break the ice with these countries by easing regional conflicts will continue with the same force in 2022?
As for Egypt, which comes at the forefront of the countries with which Turkey seeks to correct relations in talks began in the spring of 2021; perhaps Egypt’s condition is that Turkey not interfere in its internal affairs, and stop opening the Turkish arena to the Muslim Brotherhood.
These are the most important conditions that call for improving relations between the two countries, and if these obstacles are overcome, the Turkish reconciliation with Egypt will positively affect other regional files specifically related to Egypt, foremost of which is Libya and Turkish support for the Ethiopian government in its dispute with Egypt over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), and the situation in the eastern Mediterranean.
With regard to the UAE, Turkey emerged in 2021 as one of the most positive political steps in this regard, represented by the visit of the UAE National Security Adviser, Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed to Ankara and his meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, which was followed by the landmark visit of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, in late November to Ankara and meeting with Erdogan.
What is important about this visit is that the two countries opened a new and unprecedented page in bilateral relations despite the dispute between them in more than one file, and there is no doubt that the UAE’s promises to invest in Turkey ten billion dollars helped facilitate reconciliation, which must also be conditioned by stopping Turkish propaganda for the movement of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Gulf region.
This reconciliation is supposed to open up attempts to search for solutions to multiple crises in the region, especially in Syria, where the UAE has a good relationship with Damascus as well, which the UAE seeks to crystallize to be a country with good relations with all parties from Syria to Turkey and from Israel to Iran. The UAE believes that the United States’ determination to transfer its military and political weight from the Middle East to East Asia to confront China is the main factor in the search for a new role that suits the emerging conditions in the region.
In addition, for Turkish rapprochement with Saudi Arabia, Turkey is seeking to improve relations with Saudi Arabia, As Erdogan declared his intention to visit it next February, in addition to his visit to the UAE.
There is no doubt that the normalization of relations between the largest Arab country in the Gulf and Turkey will have new and positive consequences in the region.
As for Turkey’s relations with Israel, as the Turkish President said in a previous statements that his country will take similar rapprochement steps with Egypt and Israel, after talks with the UAE, Erdogan has also repeatedly stressed that Ankara wants to establish “better relations” with Tel Aviv, stressing that Talks on the intelligence level are continuing between the two sides.
Why Turkey is keen on pushing for regional openness?
There are several reasons that push Turkey to continue the policy of regional openness; most notably, the escalation of the economic crisis and Turkey’s need to attract more investments.
The second matter is related to the attempt to absorb Western pressures in light of tense relations with America, as well as the European Commission’s recent report on freezing membership negotiations with Turkey.
While the third issue revolves around the increasing influence of Iran in the region, lest it will affect Turkey’s interests and its repercussions. Ankara is also seeking to balance Russian influence in the Central Asia and the Caucasus, after its successes in supporting Azerbaijan in its war against Armenia.
Turkey entered the year 2021 burdened with tensions with its regional surroundings from Iraq to Syria to Greece and Cyprus, and its relations with other Arab countries, most notably the UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, were severely affected. The Turkish government’s policies also cast a shadow on Ankara’s relations with Washington and the European Union countries, especially France. .
Nevertheless, the Turkish Foreign Minister made it clear during a previous meeting with journalists to assess the country’s foreign policy last year that in 2021 Ankara had taken “steps towards normalization in many problematic issues.”
Turkey seeks to divert the paths of its escalatory policies on one hand, and declares its desire to open channels of communication with Arab countries to reconcile views on the other hand, albeit according to the basis of confidence-building measures.
It is remarkable that Ankara is returning to its Arab surroundings through major changes in its foreign policy and the adoption of a strategy to reduce crises, starting with Egypt and passing through the Gulf countries. It is expected that the year 2022 will witness a dramatic shift in Turkish relations with Egypt and the Gulf countries through the return of ambassadors.
It is also expected that Turkey’s next target for normalizing relations will be the United States, but given Ankara’s current power-sharing agreements with Russia in Syria, Libya and the South Caucasus, this process may be more difficult and will take longer.