Erdogan says Turkey could suspend diplomatic ties with UAE

Published August 15, 2020
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a strong advocate of Palestinian rights and has frequently criticised Israeli policies in the West Bank. — AFP/File
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a strong advocate of Palestinian rights and has frequently criticised Israeli policies in the West Bank. — AFP/File

DUBAI: As the United Arab Emirates defended its bombshell move to establish relations with Israel, Turkey and Iran condemned the decision while Saudi Arabia conspicuously kept quiet on Friday.

Turkish president said his country could suspend diplomatic ties with the UAE over the move while Iran described the decision as a “strategic stupidity”.

“I gave an order to the foreign minister. I said we could suspend diplomatic relations with the Abu Dhabi administration or withdraw our ambassador,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters.

In a deal announced on Thursday by the US, Israel pledged to suspend its planned annexation of Palestinian lands in exchange for a normalisation of ties with the UAE.

The Palestinian Authority on Thursday announced the “immediate” recall of its ambassador to the UAE in protest at the deal.

President Erdogan is a strong advocate of Palestinian rights and has frequently criticised Israeli policies in the West Bank.

Saudi Arabia keeps quiet as Emirati minister defends move

“History will not forget those who betray the Palestinian people and sell out the Palestinian cause,” Mr Erdogan’s spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, tweeted on Friday.

“Turkey will continue to stand by the Palestinian people.” The Turkish foreign ministry earlier described the UAE-Israel deal as a hypocritical betrayal of the Palestinian cause.

Ties between the UAE and Turkey have been strained for a long time, and have especially deteriorated over the conflict in Libya where the two countries support opposing sides.

For its part, Tehran termed the move “an act of strategic stupidity” that would only strengthen the Iran-backed “axis of resistance”.

“The oppressed people of Palestine and all the free nations of the world will never forgive the normalising of relations with the criminal Israeli occupation regime and the complicity in its crimes,” a foreign ministry statement said.

Tehran warned against Israeli interference in the Gulf and said the UAE should “accept responsibility for all the consequences” of the agreement.

The UAE-Israel agreement comes after Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif held rare talks with his Emirati counterpart last week, raising hopes for a mending of their ties.

The UAE had downgraded its relations with Iran in January 2016 amid a spike in tensions between Saudi Arabia and the Islamic republic.

UAE stance

An Emirati minister said the deal was designed to “shake up” the impasse over the Palestinian problem and serve his country’s interests.

Omar Saif Ghobash, assistant Minister for Culture and Public Diplomacy, said: “I think we’ve demonstrated that we are able to enter a very staid and tired situation and to shake things up, and we look forward to seeing positive developments coming out of this real engagement,” he said in an interview.

The deal, announced by US President Donald Trump on Thursday, is only the third such accord Israel has struck with an Arab country, and raises the prospect of similar deals with other pro-Western Gulf states.

But regional power Saudi Arabia, whose own efforts to induce Israel to withdraw from occupied territories have been effectively sidelined by the United Arab Emirates move, has remained conspicuously silent.

“We didn’t consult with anybody, we didn’t inform anybody, and as a sovereign state we don’t feel that we have the obligation to do that,” Ghobash said, asked if long-time ally Riyadh was consulted in advance.

“We are in the process now of informing our friends and partners and others in the region as to why we took the step” but “it’s to be expected that not everybody will ... applaud or comment”.

“We have taken the decision as a sovereign state with our own interests and our own calculations in mind.”

The establishment of ties with Israel comes after years of quiet rapprochement, including the hosting of athletes and ministers from the Jewish state.

Apart from the diplomatic implications, there are obvious economic benefits.

The UAE, rich in oil and with big ambitions in space and technology, will be able to do business openly with Israel, which will have access to the modern cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi as they attract talent and investment.

“We as a country are very globally connected and we do find that the connections are incredibly lucrative and contribute to our GDP,” Ghobash said, in an unusually candid assessment.

“We are driven by pragmatic considerations.”

Published in Dawn, August 15th, 2020

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