Tensions between Turkey and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have resurfaced once again after the two sides were engaged in a war of words over the crisis in Libya.
In a statement issued on Thursday, the UAE's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation expressed its concern over Turkish interference in Libya through the alleged deployment of fighters and smuggling of arms. The UAE ministry praised the Libyan National Army (LNA), led by rebel military commander Khalifa Haftar, and rejected Turkish military intervention on behalf of Libya's UN-recognised government.
Hami Aksoy, the Turkish foreign ministry spokesman, accused the UAE of pursuing "destructive" and "two-faced" policies in the region and called on Abu Dhabi to stop its "hostile attitude" towards Ankara. He stated the UAE was backing "putschists" in Libya - a reference to the LNA - by providing them with arms and mercenaries. He called on the Gulf state to "stop funding forces against the international peace, security and stability" in places such as Yemen, Syria and the Horn of Africa. Turkey supports the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) and has signed a military cooperation agreement with it to help the fight against Haftar's LNA, backed by the UAE and its ally, Saudi Arabia.
Turkey and the UAE have supported the opposing sides in several continuing and past issues in the Middle East, with the crisis in Libya, the Syrian civil war, the coup in Egypt, and the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi being some examples. Turkey has also accused the UAE of killing civilians and causing a humanitarian crisis in Yemen, intervening in the affairs of the Palestinian Authority (PA), and financially supporting the 2016 coup attempt in Turkey.
Turkey's backing of the Arab Spring rebellions, which began in 2011, angered Saudi Arabia and the UAE who considered the move as a threat to their national stability.
In Egypt, Turkey supported the democratically-elected President Mohamed Morsi, backed by the Muslim Brotherhood before and during the coup in Egypt. The UAE, together with Saudi Arabia, supported Egypt's Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who overthrew Morsi in 2014 and has been an ally of the two Gulf states since then.
"The rivalry between the two sides mainly stems from Turkey's support for Arab Spring uprisings and the Muslim Brotherhood movement, which were viewed as threats by the UAE and Saudi Arabia," Sinan Ulgen, former diplomat and chairman of Istanbul-based Centre for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies (EDAM) think-tank, told Al Jazeera."But the problems between the sides have gradually grown through a series of issues of disagreement over the years," he said. "As time passed and issues piled, Turkey and the UAE engaged in a regional power struggle. They see it as a zero-sum game, in which there is no way for both sides to win. If one wins, other one loses."
In June 2017, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain, along with Egypt, severed political, trade and transport ties with Qatar, accusing it of "supporting terrorism" in the region - a charge repeatedly rejected by Doha.
The four Arab countries continue to impose a land, air and sea blockade against Qatar. Turkey has staunchly supported Qatar in the crisis, enhancing its political, economic and military relations with the Gulf state. Hours after the blockade was imposed, which included Saudi Arabia closing Qatar's only land border, Turkey sent planes full of supplies to avoid a food shortage in the country, which mainly relied on import of essential commodities. Ankara also set up a military base in Qatar, deploying thousands of soldiers, to ensure the safety of the country.