H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, has affirmed the UAE’s keenness to see Arabs “play a role in Syria, be it on the political or security level,” labelling the absence of an influential Arab role there as “unacceptable”.
“It’s undoubtedly essential to analyse the situation in Syria, and to look into how the situation evolved over the past years and how the decisions taken impacted the situation there,” Sheikh Abdullah said at a joint news conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov today.
“We used to differ with the Syrian government over many of the steps taken at the domestic level. However, we are now faced with an increasing Turkish and Iranian influence amid an absence of a strong Arab role,” he noted.
“We believe this absence is unacceptable. And therefore we are collaborating with our friends in Russia and other friendly nations to deliberate how the crisis can be contained so that Syria becomes part of the Arab region and Arab efforts.
“Unfortunately, we consider Syria to be far from the Arab fold. The UAE has decided to re-open its embassy in Damascus to start this process. We believe that we are still in the beginning and that the situation needs Arab countries and Damascus to play a role together to ensure a more powerful Arab-Syrian role.
“Until now we are still away from achieving that and we believe there is a will and willingness; however a real multilateral effort is needed.”
In the beginning of the news conference, Sheikh Abdullah hailed the growing relations between the UAE and Russia over the past years.
“Last week a mutual visa waiver has been concluded for all UAE and Russian passport holders,” he said, describing the step as conducive to developing tourism and growing the aviation sector in the two countries.
“Last year witnessed an increase in Russian tourists to the UAE to 850,000,” he said, noting that there is a growing number of weekly trips between the two countries and that there are 3000 Russian companies operating in the UAE.
“Trade exchanges between the two countries amounted to $3 bn in 2018, a 21 percent up from 2017, he added, noting that there are 16,000 Russians living in the UAE.
“We highly appreciate the efforts of the Russian government to ensure high-level participation in EXPO 2020 Dubai which will witness the participation of more than 160 countries from all over the world. We are proud to see Russia a main participant in the international event,” he added.
Sheikh Abdullah hailed the growing cultural cooperation between the two sides, noting the Russian Music Festival hosted by Abu Dhabi for eight days where 30 Russian artists participated with 14 musicals.
“We are looking forward to wider cooperation at the cultural level between the two nations in the fields of publishing, translation, music and arts,” he added.
He referred to the significant cooperation between the countries in the field of space.
“The space cooperation between UAE and Russia will culminate in September which will witness the UAE’s historic maiden astronaut mission to the International Space Station. We are confident that the ties between the two countries will continue to prosper under the support of the two countries’ leadership with a view to developing cooperation at all levels, including in the fields of economy and trade.
“We are looking forward to concluding a number of MoUs that strengthen our relationship shortly, including an MoU to establish a consular commission and another to ensure mutual acknowledgement of the two countries’ driving licenses.”
Sheikh Abdullah added that “IDEX 2019 saw a significant Russian participation reflecting the growing cooperation in the defence and security field, which holds a great importance for the two countries along with the military industry sector.”
“UAE and Russia are collaborating to fight modern and conventional threats related to drugs, organised crime, money laundering and extremism,” he noted.
“This is very important for us and we are proud of our declaration of 2019 as the Year of Tolerance. We will continue to cooperate with Federal Russia and other friends around the world to promote the values of tolerance and peaceful-co-existence between world countries.”
For his part, the Russian top diplomat emphasised the strong and distinguished relations between the UAE and Russia under the support of the two countries’ leadership.
“We are committed to countering extremism and terrorism and we share common views on how to work together to settle crises in the region,” he said.
“We emphasise the need to find a solution to these problems through political and diplomatic ways,” Lavarov added.
He indicated that the discussions with Sheikh Abdullah addressed ways to enhance cooperation in the fields of investment, trade, economy, peaceful nuclear energy and space, noting that the trade exchange between the two countries is growing and the Joint UAE-Russian Committee contributes to boosting cooperation.
Lavarov added that the mutual exemption of pre-entry visa requirement agreement that has come into force would contribute to enhancing cooperation, saying the waiver reflects the strong relations between the two countries’ leadership and peoples.
He concluded that Russia is interested in the relations in the GCC region and has an initiative at the negotiating table to safeguard security and stability in this strategic region involving the participation of all countries concerned.