Opposition politicians, dissident journalists and social media users have criticized Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) government for a recent change in policy towards the United Arab Emirates.
The shift was marked by a visit to Ankara this week by Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the highest-level interaction after years of tension between Turkey and the UAE, which have backed opposing sides in the Libyan conflict and sparred on several other regional issues.
“The crown prince of the UAE arrived, and you snapped to attention, Erdoğan. What happened to your Rabia [sign]?” main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu tweeted in reference to Erdoğan’s raising a four-finger salute at massive rallies in past years, seen as a tribute to hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood supporters killed by security forces in Cairo following the ouster of Mohamed Morsi.
“I always say everything about the palace [Erdoğan] is a pack of lies, empty perceptions. They [the AKP] would forget about their cause instantly if there’s money to be had. True Muslims have no place next to the palace,” he added.
CHP MP Tuncay Özkan also shared a video on Twitter showing AKP officials, including Erdoğan, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu and Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, criticizing the Abu Dhabi government on several issues.
“He surrendered to his enemy and welcomed with a ceremony the UAE crown prince, whom he had accused of plotting a coup with FETÖ. Where’s the spine in that? Where is the principled foreign policy? Come on, explain this, Erdoğan,” Özkan said.
FETÖ is a derogatory term used by the Turkish government to refer to the faith-based Gülen movement as a terrorist organization. The government accuses the movement of masterminding a coup attempt on July 15, 2016. The movement strongly denies involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.
Following the attempted coup, Erdoğan accused the UAE of financing the coup plotters.
“We know very well who in the Gulf was happy about the coup attempt and spent a lot of money on its execution,” Erdoğan said at the time without mentioning the UAE by name.
“The crown prince came [to Turkey] and the dollar lost [a little bit of value against the lira]. Will it gain it back when he leaves? Do you see how this situation puts Turkey into a corner? Shame!” veteran journalist Uğur Dündar tweeted, referring to the argument that what prompted Ankara to repair ties with Abu Dhabi was Turkey’s flagging economy.
The Turkish currency has shed 45 percent of its value this year, becoming the world’s worst-performing currency in 2021. The lira hit a record low on Tuesday, exceeding 13 to the dollar. It has lost around 40 percent in value against the US dollar since the start of the year.
“Such ignobleness cannot exist!” journalist İsmail Saymaz said, criticizing the pro-government media’s now-positive news coverage of events related to the UAE.
Along with his comment, Saymaz posted a photo of the front page of the pro-government Yeni Şafak daily from October 23, 2020, with the headline saying “These are ignoble [people]” in reference to the Abu Dhabi government.
In addition to the coup attempt, Turkey also accused the UAE of undermining its interests in Libya, which has been embroiled in a civil war between the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) and the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA). Turkey supports the GNA militarily, while the UAE along with Russia backs the LNA and its leader, Gen. Khalifa Haftar, who recently stepped down to run for president in elections slated for December 24.
Turkey’s relations with the UAE have also been strained due to the scandalous revelations of a notorious Turkish mafia boss, Sedat Peker, who is currently in exile in the UAE.
Peker, once a staunch supporter of President Erdoğan who has been making shocking revelations about state-mafia relations, drug trafficking and murders implicating state officials and their family members, has since June been making them on Twitter instead of YouTube since officials in the UAE told him not to release any more YouTube videos defaming politicians in another country.
There are claims that Peker might have to leave the UAE following al-Nahyan’s visit to Ankara due to pressure from the Turkish government.