Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Tuesday called on business leaders in the wealthy United Arab Emirates to invest in his country, which is in the grip of an economic crisis, Agence France-Presse reported.
Erdoğan arrived in the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi on Monday for a two-day visit to revive relations that were long strained by regional disputes, marking his first trip to the oil-rich Gulf country in nearly a decade.
“As the leading representatives of the private sector in the United Arab Emirates, I am sure you fully comprehend the benefits of establishing commercial and investment partnerships with Turkey,” he told investors at a business conference in Abu Dhabi.
“It is you, the esteemed members of our business world, who will realize the two countries’ potential, especially in trade and investments.”
Erdoğan’s visit comes after Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the UAE’s de facto ruler, travelled to Ankara in November on the first high-level visit to Turkey since 2012.
The Turkish president said on Tuesday that that trip “started a new era” with the UAE, adding there was a “strong collective will to develop trade relations and increase investments.”
Erdoğan and Sheikh Mohammed on Monday oversaw the signing of 13 cooperation agreements and memorandums of understanding, including a letter of intent on cooperation in the defense industry, according to the UAE’s official WAM news agency.
Other areas of cooperation included health, technology, climate action and crisis and disaster management, among others, the news agency said.
Turkey-UAE trade topped 26.4 billion dirhams ($7.2 billion) in the first half of 2021. The UAE hopes to double or triple trade volume with Turkey, which it sees as a route to new markets.
About 400 Emirati companies operate in Turkey, the UAE’s 11th largest trading partner, WAM said.
Turkey and the UAE have backed opposing sides in regional conflicts, including in Libya, and have sparred over issues such as gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean.
Turkey-UAE relations were particularly tense after Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain in 2017 cut all links with Qatar, a close Turkish ally. Those relations were restored in January 2021.
But Erdoğan has since last year sought to improve ties with regional rivals in the face of increasing diplomatic isolation that has caused foreign investment to dry up, particularly from the West.
Following Sheikh Mohammed’s visit in November, the UAE announced a $10 billion fund for investments in Turkey, where a currency crisis has slashed people’s purchasing power and inflation last month surged to a near 20-year high.
Last month, Erdoğan said he would visit Saudi Arabia in February, his first trip to Riyadh since relations soured over the 2018 murder of Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi inside the kingdom’s consulate in İstanbul.
Later on Tuesday, Erdoğan is due to visit the Expo 2020 Dubai world fair.