Wed, 18 May 2022

By John SolomouNicosia [Cyprus], January 10 (ANI): In the past few months, several economic cooperation agreements concluded between various states in the Middle East brought about dramatic changes in relations between states, which would have been unthinkable two years ago. The whole situation can best be described as shifting sands.

As a result of these agreements relations between former hostile countries have improved but at the same time, these agreements caused anger and concern to some friendly states and allies.

One such cooperation agreement was concluded last November between the UAE, Iran, and Turkey under which goods will be sent from the UAE to Iran and then on to Turkey overland. The agreement will shorten transport times from the current 21 days through the Suez Canal to just eight days.

Already an Emirati truck crossed Iran and arrived in the Mediterranean port of Iskenderun in Turkey in just eight days.

This agreement is already worrying Egypt, which is gravely concerned about a significant decrease in traffic through the Suez Canal. Furthermore, the improvement of relations between the UAE and Iran could signify the end of the Arab anti-Iran coalition led by Saudi Arabia in the war in Yemen against Tehran-allied Houthis.

The UAE has withdrawn all its troops which fought in the conflict in Yemen on the side of the Saudis and dismantled its base in Eritrea, which was used to ferry heavy weaponry and Sudanese troops fighting the Houthis.

However, although Saudi Arabia and the UAE were the leaders of the coalition fighting Iran's proxies in the Gulf, Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman, may not be so shocked by these moves of his Emirati colleague, as Saudi Arabia has already held three rounds of talks with senior Iranian officials in Baghdad.

Israel is the country that is really concerned about the warming of ties between the United Arab Emirates and Iran. The Israeli government which signed a US-led normalization deal with the UAE in September 2020 considers the agreement between the UAE, Iran, and Turkey as "worrying" and "not acceptable," a government official said.

Israel is particularly concerned about a high-ranking visit by Tahnoun bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the UAE's national security adviser, to Tehran on December 6 who met Ali Shamkhani, Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council.

In another development, the much-touted agreement on the Europe-Asia pipeline, achieved in the framework of the Trump-brokered peace deal between the United Arab Emirates and Israel, is expected to be cancelled by the Israeli government for environmental reasons.

Under the 10-year contract signed in December 2020 about 14 million tons of Arab oil per year would be unloaded to the Israeli port Eilat and using an existing 158-mile pipeline would be transferred to the port of Ashkelon in the Mediterranean.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi told Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennet that he was concerned about the project which would sting Egypt's economy. The Euro-Asia pipeline, if implemented, would reduce income from tanker traffic in the Suez Canal, which is quite significant for Egypt's economy.

The agreement to use the Eilat- Ashkelon pipeline for the transport of Arab oil to the Mediterranean was blocked last month by the Israeli Environmental Protection Ministry which cited concerns about possible leaks. This means that Israel has lost an opportunity to play a role in the transport of oil from the Middle East to Europe.

Strong opposition to the agreement was something to be expected as the state-owned EAPC company operating the pipeline was responsible seven years ago for the largest environmental disaster in Israel's history, when one of its pipelines ruptured, releasing about 1.3 million gallons of crude oil into the Evrona Nature Resort.

Undoubtedly, the news of the cancellation of the contract displeased the United Arab Emirates, but there was no strong reaction to the news on the part of the Emirati government.

On December 7, the Israeli Foreign Ministry said that the cancellation of the Europe-Asia Pipeline, will damage Israel's relations with the Gulf monarchy," but not beyond anything that cannot be managed."Last November Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan (MBZ) paid his first visit to Ankara in many years. putting an end to the frosty relations existing between the two countries from the time of the Arab Spring.

Relations between the two countries hit an all-time low when Erdogan said that Ankara could suspend diplomatic ties with the Abu Dhabi administration after the UAE-Israel deal to normalize relations.

For many years, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had actively supported the Moslem Brotherhood and on several occasions, he made harsh remarks about the Gulf rulers. He also sided with Qatar, which was under blockade by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, and Bahrain, allegedly for supporting terrorism.

However, at the beginning of 2021, the four Arab states decided to restore relations with Qatar and later efforts were made to restore relations also with Turkey.

Following a meeting of the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, dozens of cooperation and investment agreements worth billions of dollars were signed. The UAE has also allocated a USD 10 billion fund to support mainly strategic investments in Turkey, which is in a dire economic situation.

It seems that at least some of the leaders of Middle East countries, partly because of the perceived withdrawal of the US from the region that deprived them of a security shield, have realized that they must reduce the number of their enemies and try to improve relations with hostile countries. They seem to have realized that the conclusion of mutually beneficial economic agreements is the best way forward and a win-win situation for all concerned. (ANI)

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