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UAE - Foreign Relations

In late 2017 the UAE’s commitment to supporting secular forces in the Middle East had become the dominant driver of its foreign policy agenda. By attempting to isolate Qatar from the regional system, carrying out military operations in Yemen and urging Saudi Arabia to abandon its lingering Islamist allies, the UAE developed a dual containment strategy aimed at reducing the influence of Sunni Islamist networks and Iran-backed Shiite militant groups. This dual containment strategy also sought to complete the UAE’s transformation from being a supporting ally of Saudi Arabia into a regional power with independent geopolitical aspirations.

The principles guiding UAE foreign policy were expressed by the country’s first President, HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. These included an underlying belief in justice in international dealings between states, a principle of noninterference in the internal affairs of other states and the pursuit, wherever possible, of peaceful resolutions of disputes, with strong support for international institutions, such as the United Nations (UN). Through its support for such bodies, the UAE seeks to reinforce the rule of international law, and to support the implementation of internationally agreed conventions, protecting the interests of the small, the weak and the powerless.

Within the Arabian Gulf region, and in the broader Arab world, the UAE has sought to enhance cooperation and to resolve disagreement through dialogue. The UAE occupies a critical strategic position on the Arabian Gulf, where nearly one-quarter of the world’s oil is produced and shipped. Today, the UAE provides UN, US, European Union (EU) and NATO forces unprecedented access to ports and territory, overflight clearances and other critical and important logistical assistance.

The UAE supports the international fight against terrorism. The UAE has frozen the accounts of known terrorists and enacted aggressive anti-money-laundering initiatives. New counter-terrorist financing laws and regulations have been introduced and enforced.

The UAE is a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the Arab League, as well as the UN and its agencies. The UAE is meeting its commitments to Iraq reconstruction by providing important financial and in-kind support, including free medical treatment, hospital reconstruction, humanitarian supplies and police training.

The UAE continues to make a significant humanitarian contribution in Afghanistan, and has done so since 2003. The UAE Red Crescent has invested $19 million in local projects, and the UAE Government has dedicated $30 million to international reconstruction efforts in the country. And the UAE people have made $22 million in private contributions. These investments have contributed to the construction of 11 schools, 6 medical clinics, a major hospital, a public library and numerous mosques, among other projects.

The UAE's military presence in Afghanistan, with a strictly defensive purpose, was consistent with the UAE Constitution. The UAE Armed Forces on the ground were focused on the protection of humanitarian initiatives and ensuring safety and stability for local communities. Personnel were also directly involved in culturally sensitive community development activities, especially necessitating knowledge of the Arabic language or Islamic traditions, alongside representatives of key humanitarian organizations such as the Red Crescent. Recent achievements in healthcare, education and the provision of basic infrastructure can in part be attributed to the work of the UAE Armed Forces in the provision of safety, stability and culturally sensitive community development.

With the international community, the UAE shares a deep concern over Iran’s nuclear development and its impact on peace and stability in the region. The UAE fully supports and enforces United Nations Security Council resolutions barring shipment of sensitive materials and technologies to Iran. Located just across the Gulf, the UAE and Iran have historic ties, including a significant trading relationship. The UAE, with the GCC, wants the entire region to be free of weapons of mass destruction. The UAE leadership sees Iran as its primary external threat, and one that is existential in nature. Like the rest of the international community, the UAE finds the idea of an Iran with nuclear weapons unacceptable and thinks this eventuality would lead to nuclear arms race in the Middle East. At least as worrying to Emiratis is Iran's aspirations for regional hegemony, which it realizes through terrorist proxies (Hizballah, HAMAS, possibly underground organizations in the Arab Gulf countries).

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (MbZ) is skeptical that Iran can be convinced to end its nuclear weapons program, and is not convinced that the international community will adopt tough sanctions. In other words, he sees the logic of war dominating the region, and this thinking explains his near obsessive efforts to build up his armed forces and the Critical National Infrastructure Authority (CNIA).

The UAE believes that the restoration of security, peace and stability in the region, and the normalization of relations between all countries, including Israel, can be achieved with the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, within the context of a just and lasting peace agreement, based upon the Arab peace initiative. The UAE participated in the 2007 Annapolis talks and is a member of the Arab Quartet, and actively promotes a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The UAE actively promotes a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The UAE supports two key United Nations agencies working in the West Bank and Gaza: the UN Development Programme, (UNDP) and the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). The UAE Red Crescent and other UAE charitable organizations have contributed over Dh2 billion (US$544 million) to humanitarian projects in Palestine and in Syria for Palestinian refugees, including the construction of a girl's school at a refugee camp near Damascus in association with the UNRWA. The Mohammed bin Rashid Foundation has built several schools, hospitals and medical centers in the Palestinian West Bank.

On May 2, 2017 President Hadi of Yemen accused the UAE of behaving "like an occupation power in Yemen rather than a force of liberation" in a meeting with the crown prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed. A top official said 26 May 2017 that forces from the United Arab Emirates could soon be flying fighter jets from a new base in the republic of Somaliland. Somaliland Foreign Minister Saad Ali Shire said the UAE could use the base in the town of Berbera for any purpose, including "training, surveillance and military operations." Berbera is about 250 kilometers south of Yemen, where a Saudi-led military coalition that includes UAE troops is fighting Houthi rebels. The base is still under construction, but UAE Navy ships have docked at Berbera's deep-water port.

The deal generated controversy in Somalia, which considers Somaliland to be part of its territory. The Somali parliament asked Somalia's president to clarify the government's stance on the deal. Dozens of lawmakers have voiced support for a motion opposing the UAE base.

The Somaliland foreign minister said his government sees the deal as an "economic transaction." He said "The agreement is [for] UAE to use Berbera airport and port as a military facility, and in exchange, the UAE will be building roads, a new airport, and funding health, education and water energy".

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Page last modified: 21-11-2021 18:54:56 ZULU