Commentary Urges Turkey, UAE To `Join Forces` Against `Lingering Iranian Threat`
Today`s Zaman Online
Saturday, December 1, 2012
Gül Indicates Robust Bilateral Relations between Turkey and the UAE
Column by Abdullah Bozkurt: “Connecting Turks and Emiratis”
If there is anything that requires the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Turkey to join forces, it is the lingering Iranian threat that is keen to destabilize the region all the way from the Gulf and sub-Saharan Africa in the south to the Caucasus and the Central Asia in the north. If Iran gets its way in this large geography using sectarian schisms under the guise of political Islam, the UAE and Turkey are the two front-line countries that are poised to lose most from such an expansion. That is why both countries are strongly opposed to a nuclear-armed Iran as this will change the dynamics fundamentally in the favor of belligerent Iranian policies.
Unlike Iran, both the UAE and Turkey are keen to promote stability in the Middle East and the Gulf because they want to keep trading in a safe and secure environment. They fear political instability and regional conflicts will scare away investment and trade. In a safe environment, Turkish and Emirati officials are confident enough that their booming economies, supported by the entrepreneurial skills and innovative spirits of their businesspeople, mean that both countries are well placed in the competition. Whereas Iran, knowing that it is set to lose in a fair game, benefits from factionalism and divisions to the extent that trade deals are decided on the basis of ideological considerations rather than free and fair competition rules.
Having had talks with senior UAE officials involved in foreign affairs and economic issues this week on the occasion of the 41st anniversary of the establishment of the federation, I reaffirmed my earlier belief that that Turks and Emiratis need to take cooperation -- already underway in many areas -- to the next level without losing valuable time. As Dr. Anwar Gargash, the state minister for foreign affairs, rightly pointed out in our discussion of the UAE`s foreign policy challenges, we need to “operationalize” these cooperation schemes with more emphasis put on “how to do it” rather than “what to do.”
I think we all know what to do in bolstering bilateral ties as well as in cooperating on issues that are relevant in third countries, especially in the immediate neighborhood of the UAE and Turkey. It is now time to translate goodwill declarations issued during high-level visits on each side into concrete actions that will pave way for new opportunities. We have already seen preliminary indications on how this cooperation could mutually benefit both countries. The joint UAE and Turkish operation in delivering urgent supplies to the opposition in Libya last year or ongoing cooperation on the ground between the Turkish Red Crescent and the UAE Red Crescent in war-ravaged Mogadishu are good examples of what both countries can accomplish together when their interests overlap.
Looking at the number of challenges the UAE has faced recently, there is no doubt that Turkey can play a significant role in helping Emiratis in mitigating risks and countering threats the young federation is confronted with. Iran tops the list, of course, and both countries have a vested interest in cooperating more closely to counter Iranian expansionist and interventionist policies in the region.
In fact, both Turkey and the UAE represent a situation that resembles very much the hydraulics concept of “communicating vessels” working in reverse. When the UAE puts the slightest pressure on Iranian illicit trade activity circumventing sanctions, Tehran switches its front companies affiliated with the regime to Turkey. When Iran faces severe restrictions in Turkey, it turns to the UAE ports and trade hubs, especially in Dubai, to bypass sanctions. This creates good leverage against Iran when both countries join forces to squeeze Iran economically.
The Turkish position on three Gulf islands occupied by Iran is pretty much favoring the UAE, as Ankara has made it clear that it wants the dispute settled by negotiations rather than military confrontation, a position long-held by the Abu Dhabi government. When Mahmoud Ahmadinejad paid a provocative visit to the island of Abu Musa, the largest of the three, back in May, Turkey said the stability and security of the Gulf was paramount and urged dialogue rather than an escalation of the issue.
There is another looming issue that might push Turks and Emiratis into closer collaboration -- the rising threat of disruptive radical organizations like al-Qaeda and other like-minded ones that hijack the peaceful religion of Islam for malicious purposes in the Middle East. Despite its own shortcomings, the Turkish experience so far has proved that these radical groups cannot make inroads into the Turkish social fabric because of the moderation, openness and tolerance deeply rooted in Turkish Islamic culture since Ottoman times. Incidentally, the same barrier has also helped stop the spread of Iran`s political schism from moving beyond the Turkish border since the revolution in 1979.
This tradition was bolstered through education in Turkey. As the UAE is redesigning education and investing heavily in that field, the Turkish experience may come in handy in the overhauling of the UAE`s educational system. Turkey, a major Muslim country with strong links to the West, could be good mixture for the UAE to draw some lessons from. The UAE is already partnering with many in the West including the US, the UK and France on education and culture but the fact that none of them are Muslim countries could expose these connections to a possible exploitation by radical groups in Gulf and Middle East. It gives ammunition to the extremist groups for misleading propaganda that the West is pulling the strings in the UAE government.
There is no doubt that Egypt, the most populous Arab country, has considerable influence in the region and the UAE looks up to Cairo for a variety of reasons, including the fact that they are Arab brethren. But Egypt under the Muslim Brotherhood`s influence has a long way to go to consolidate its democratic overhaul while struggling to keep country`s economy afloat. The unfolding events in Egypt in the last week have shown that the country is very much polarized and society is divided. All these things are a source of great concern for UAE officials. The response to the question of how Arab Spring changes will influence UAE society is still unknown and this understandably causes great apprehension among Emirati elites. Enlisting Turkish help may soothe some of the tensions the UAE feels at the moment.
From the wider regional perspective, Turkish-Emirati cooperation also promises a lot for many other people. With educational outreach activities, charities, assistance programs and trade ties, Turkey has been trying to share this successful working experience with a number of countries from Somalia to Yemen and from Pakistan to Afghanistan, so that stability and safety can be sustained on a long-term basis. The UAE, which is home to many ethnic and religious groups, could very well emulate Turkey`s experience but tailor it to its own unique characteristics. The fact that the Abu Dhabi government welcomes Turkey`s further involvement in these countries facing religious fanaticism and schism indicates that there is huge room to develop ties between Turkey and the UAE.
The UAE is not a big country but it has significant soft power in the region. This power is not necessarily tied to the wealthy sovereign funds the Emirates collects from the oil and gas industry. It also has to do with the innovative ideas the UAE has come up with since the establishment of the federation 41 years ago. It has been able to diversify its economic portfolio and today collects significant revenue from the trade and hospitality industries. The country can entertain many world gatherings and international events on a variety of subjects with no problem whatsoever. In the Gulf region, it is a good partner for Turkey.
UAE officials acknowledge that the country needs external anchors to deal with challenges in its tough neighborhood. They have been partnering with a number of regional and global powers to do so. I believe Turkey is perfectly positioned to tap into this strategic need and there are a whole range of overlapping interests that will make this mutually beneficial for both countries.
(Description of Source: Istanbul Today`s Zaman Online in English -- Website of English-language daily published by the Zaman media group, supportive of Fethullah Gulen community; URL: http://www.todayszaman.com)
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Turkish Columnist Suggests Gold Sent to Iran via UAE Because of West`s Embargo
Wednesday, October 3, 2012
UAE and Turkey business forum
Column by Gungor Uras: “Are They Going To Buy Property in Dubai With Gold?”; all figures as received
On 3 October, Agaoglu will be putting the Maslak residences up for sale in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Could it be that the Turkish big shots filled their bags with all the gold they could find at home and sent it to the UAE in order to pay for the properties they are going to buy?
In August 2012, the biggest volume of exports was made to the UAE. The exports to that country increased by 753.8 percent in comparison to August 2011 and reached $2.227 billion (out of which $1.9 billion was in gold). Since January this year, our monthly imports from the UAE have amounted respectively to $129 million, $114 million, $116 million, $225 million, $616 million, $594 million, $480 million, and in August we bought goods amounting to $353 million from the UAE.
As against this, our monthly exports to the UAE since January amounted respectively to $332 million, $307 million, $425 million, $357 million, $326 million, $349 million, $270 million, and in August our exports to the UAE amounted to $2.226 billion. Like the saying goes, “how did we get so lucky?” That really was the case. Why would we send goods to the UAE amounting to $2.226 billion in August, when, until then, our monthly exports amounted to $200-300 million, or $400 million at most?
The TUIK`s (Turkish Statistical Board) explanation was particularly confusing. It turns out that even the TUIK had to issue a warning. It said that out of the $2.226 billion-worth of exports to the UAE in August, $1.902 billion was in gold.
In previous months we were sending gold to Iran. Where did the UAE spring from? On top of all that, we learned that the business of sending gold to Iran slowed down in August. The total exports amounted to $540 million. Let us say, out of that figure, $200 million is in gold. Who sent so much gold to the UAE, and why? Gold to Iran Through UAE...
All of a sudden I got suspicious. Could it be that our Turkish big shots filled their bags with all the gold they could find at home and sent it to the UAE in order to pay for the properties they are going to buy? In Dubai, Agaoglu will be putting the Maslak residences up for sale on 3 October. The Turkish big shots will probably snatch those Maslak residences on 3 October with that gold! After a while, I started to think. I seriously tried to understand the situation, thinking that that could not be possible. From what I understood:
-- We may have started to send the payments in gold to Iran through the UAE when it became impossible to pay for the natural gas bought from Iran with foreign currency because of the West`s financial embargo, and when the use of gold to settle accounts with Iran started to become too obvious.
-- That is because we see that the gold exports to Iran stopped abruptly in August. I wonder how this gold export influences our imports and exports.
-- In the period between January and August 2011, the export volume amounted to $80.7 billion. This year it is $100 billion. There is an increase of $11.3 billion. The export of gold and precious stones from January to August 2012 amounted to $11.2 billion. If you subtract it from the $11.3-billion increase in the export volume, you will see that in the first eight months there was no increase in the volume of exports except for the exported gold and precious stones. Is Gold Entering Illegally?
-- We should give credit where credit is due. Let us deduct the gold and precious stones from the exports volume. In the first eight months of 2011 the import of gold and precious stones was $726 million, and this year this figure went up to $6.8 billion, thus increasing the total figures for imports.
-- But the picture is confusing. How is it possible that in the first eight months of 2012 our imports of gold and precious stones amounted to $6.8 billion, but our exports of gold and precious stones amounted to $11.2 billion? Our domestic gold production is not big enough to cover the difference. I wonder whether we are sending gold from our stocks, or perhaps gold is entering the country illegally. Gold `Dissolved` Foreign Deficit
The deficit in foreign trade dissolved with the gold exports. According to the TUIK`s data, in August, the foreign trade deficit went down from $8.4 billion to $5.86 billion. A deficit of $8.1 billion was anticipated, but the foreign trade deficit turned out to be far below the expected figures with the support of gold exports, especially to the UAE.
The UAE replaced Iran, which was in first place in terms of gold exports. In the period between January and August, the foreign trade deficit stood at $56.6 billion, with a decrease of 21.2 percent. The exports went up by 14.5 percent in August and stood at $12.874 billion, and in the period between January to August, they went up by 12.8 percent and stood at $100 billion. Imports went down by 4.8 percent in August and stood at $156.6 billion. In August, the biggest export item was determined to be precious stones and metals, standing at $2.35 billion, with an increase of 867.8 percent.
(Description of Source: Istanbul Milliyet Online in Turkish -- Website of prominent pro-secular daily owned by Demiroren-Karacan Group; URL: http://www.milliyet.com.tr)
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Report Asserts Turkey Replacing UAE as Iran`s Main Commercial Partner
Friday, July 13, 2012
Commentary by Erfanian headlined: “Process To Replace UAE With Turkey as Iran`s Main Commercial Partner in the Region Has Accelerated”
The Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey, known as TOBB, has announced in its most recent report that the capital for more than 27% of foreign companies registered in Turkey in May 2012, has been provided by Iranians. The report stipulates that the number of Iranian companies registered in Turkey over the past five months has experienced significant growth and Iranian companies are at the top of the list of foreign companies established in Turkey, as they were in 2011. According to the Fars News Agency, as quoted from the Turkish Weekly website, out of the 320 foreign companies registered in Turkey in the past month, 86 were Iranian. In the first five months of 2012, 431 companies were registered in Turkey with Iranian capital. Germany with 152 companies and Russia with 86 companies are in second and third place respectively. The majority of Iranian companies registered in Turkey are active in the field of electronics, electricity, communications, and construction. Efforts by several Iranian banks to establish branches in Turkey
Tejarant Bank, Pasargad Bank, and another Iranian bank that has not been named, intend to obtain permission from officials in Ankara to establish their branches in Turkey and expand their financial cooperation with this country. These three banks had earlier submitted their requests to the organization in charge of supervising banks and financial regulations in Turkey in order to enter the financial market in this country but their requests have not yet been agreed to. More than 2,100 Iranian companies were registered in Turkey by December 2011
In 2010, Iran invested more than $4 billion to register companies in Turkey and by December 2011, more than 2,100 Iranian companies were registered in this country. Trade between Iran and Turkey has reached $16 billion
Commercial trade between Iran and Turkey reached $16 billion last year, the majority of which consisted of oil and gas exports from Iran to Turkey. Turkey supplies more than 30% of its required oil through imports and 7% of this oil is imported from Iran. Over the past year, Iran also supplied more than 30% of the natural gas needed by Turkey. Obstructionism by the UAE led Iranian companies toward Turkey
Ahmad Imandust, managing director of the company that represents the UAE`s Jebel Ali Free Zone in Iran, told Khorasan: “Over the past years, the UAE and Turkey competed over the Iranian market but recent obstructionism and harsh measures by the UAE in the registration of Iranian companies and the renewal of residency permits, have led Iranian companies toward Turkey.” He added: “Turkey has used this gap and set out to attract Iranian companies and capital and measures such as Iranians not needing visas and the connection between Turkey and European countries provide the necessary attraction for investment in this country by Iranian companies.” Turkey`s improving economy
Imandust added: “Before Erdogan`s government, Turkey was struggling with an inflation rate of 130% but the inflation rate in this country has now decreased to 8.3% and unemployment rate is under 10%.” Turkey`s revenue from tourism is $21 billion
Imandust added: “With tourism revenues of $21 billion, Turkey occupies eighth position in the world as far as tourism is concerned. According to statistics, France is in first position with 74 million tourists, the US is second with 55 million, Spain is third with 52 million, and China is fourth with 50 million.” The economic expert went on to say: “ In Nowruz (Iranian New Year), 2 million Iranians traveled to Turkey and if every Iranian spent at least $500 in that country, around $1 billion have left the country and have been spent in Turkey. Turkey`s second highest revenue after exports is through tourism.” Gap between Turkey`s free zones and the UAE`s free zones
As far as competition between Turkey and th e UAE for the expansion of free zones is concerned, Imandust said: “There is still a large gap between Turkey`s free zones and the UAE`s free zones and the former have not yet reached the development and the extent of the UAE`s free zones. For example, the Jebel Ali free zone in the UAE has around 7,000 active companies, 10% of which are Iranian and in this zone, companies enjoy tax exemption for 50 years and all well-known banks have branches in this zone.”
(Description of Source: Mashhad Khorasan in Persian -- centrist daily published in Mashhad -- lavishly produced 16-page newspaper; backed by the powerful Martyrs Foundation; strongly supports Khomeyni`s economic ideals of total independence and self-sufficiency)
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