Lundi 22 Avril 2019  

N°124 - Quatrième trimestre 2018

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     Emirats arabes unis
  S.E.M. / H.E. Saif Sultan Mubarak Al Aryani

United Arab Emirates:

a Key Player in the Middle East


Following in the footsteps of H.H. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahayan, the current President of the United Arab Emirates H.H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahayan is determined to boost his country’s role as a strategic Mideast hub. H.E. Saif Sultan Mubarak Al Aryani, UAE Ambassador to France, discusses his country’s balanced stance on the regional stage and great openness to the outside world.


The Diplomatic Letter: Mr Ambassador, H.H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahayan was elected President of the UAE   by the Supreme Federal Council after the death of H.H. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahayan, on 2 November 2004. How would you assess the strides made by your country since its creation in 1971? Could you summarize the top priorities of President H.H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahayan, who has vowed to keep pushing forward in this same direction?


H.E. Saif Sultan Mubarak Al Aryani: In order to make an objective assessment of the strides made in a wide array of areas under the founder of the United Arab Emirates, H.H. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahayan, these advances must first be compared to the headway made in neighboring countries. Moreover, it should be underscored that the Gulf region has been hit by a series of acute crises that have had an impact not only upon our region, but on the world as a whole. All of these incidents – which include the Iranian revolution, the Iran-Iraq war, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the ensuing war of liberation, and, more recently, the war in Iraq have made our country stronger and heightened its ability to adapt to economic and political shifts, without impeding its construction and development process.

As for the second half of your question, H.H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahayan has laid out key priorities as our country builds its future, which can be summarized as follows:

– carrying on his father’s vision for developing the UAE’s various activity sectors;

– taking the same political line, most notably towards the situation in the region and the events unfolding there, while laying emphasis on improving ties with our neighbors and the need to resolve our problems through dialogue;

– focusing our development efforts on the industrial sector and continuing to shift state oil revenues towards the industrial and tourism sectors, in keeping with our economic diversification policy.


T.D.L.: Though the oil industry has clearly been the driving force behind the UAE’s economic boom, hydrocarbons now account for less than 30% of the country’s GDP growth. Several major tourism projects have been launched in the UAE in recent years. Could you tell us which other sectors are being targeted in the drive to diversify the Emirati economy?


H.E.S.S.M.A.A.: Oil is, without a doubt, a raw material of utmost strategic importance to us. It has been a key factor in our country’s development process, which has reached a high level of progress and prosperity. Yet as you know, oil does eventually dry up, making it a provisional resource. We must consequently optimize the financial resources at our disposal, by investing them in production sectors such as industry and tourism. In addition, we must do our utmost to draw more foreign capital into our country. Needless to say, these objectives could never be achieved without the dialogues and partnerships we have built with our friends among the industrially advanced countries, with the goal of transferring their technologies to our own country. With that in mind, the UAE has already set up the structures required to receive these technology transfers.

Let me add that our country’s geographic location is particularly propitious for exporting to other parts of the world. It has high quality infrastructures, very advanced means of communication, and a modern network of highways, ports and airports. It also offers extremely low customs’ fees as well as a low-cost labor force.


T.D.L.: The United Arab Emirates has a unique demographic make-up, with foreigners accounting for nearly 80% of the population. Can you tell our readers what UAE authorities are doing to overcome the challenges this situation raises for your country’s political, social and economic stability?


H.E.S.S.M.A.A.: You bring up an issue of vital importance to our country, one we need to resolve as quickly as possible. The UAE government is determined to find a suitable solution, and has set up a commission of experts responsible for studying this problem and submitting their recommendations to the relevant authorities. These authorities will work with the governments of the immigrants’ home countries to come up with a solution, through the coordinated efforts of all the concerned parties.


T.D.L.:   The overthrow of Saddam Hussein reshuffled the geopolitical order in the Middle East, which now hinges on reestablishing peace in Iraq and pushing through the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Could you share your thoughts on the political shift in Iraq since the summer of 2004?


H.E.S.S.M.A.A.: When we think of all the suffering they have endured, all the victims and all the destruction, our brothers in Iraq have no choice but to commit themselves to serving the national interests of the country as a whole, without regard for the interests of any one individual or any one community. Our sister country is especially dear to the hearts of the people of the UAE, which is why the United Arab Emirates will continue to assist Iraq until it can get back on its feet again.


T.D.L.: The death of the longtime leader of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat, was a major turning point in the Middle East. Do you think it will be easier, in this new context,   to implement the “road map” which calls for Israel to pull out of the Gaza Strip and a new leader to be installed at the head of the Palestinian Authority after the 10 January 2005 elections?


H.E.S.S.M.A.A.: I do not think that a just solution to the Palestinian problem can be found until Israel proves it truly desires peace. As for the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, in order for it to have a positive impact on the peace process, this withdrawal must be carried out within the framework of the road map. If this is the case, we   could finally begin to see a ray of hope for establishing peace.


T.D.L.: With the launching of the international community’s “Greater Middle East Partnership,” the democratization of Arab societies has become a key theme in the regional political debate as well as the Arab League’s top priority. Could you describe the stakes of this debate for your own country?


H.E.S.S.M.A.A.: Since its creation, the UAE has followed a course of action that links the pace of their development to the headway made by the international community, in every different sphere. The UAE is a young and ambitious society that is committed to the quest for excellence. What’s more, as you know, the United Arab Emirates is founded on the federalist political system. In other words, every emirate has its own consultative council as well as an executive council, which coexist alongside the Federal National Council (Parliament). Throughout its own federal experience, the UAE has worked hard to remain abreast of the developments of its times, following the example of States the world over. Very shortly, all of our country’s constitutional institutions will have adopted this mindset.

I would also like to underscore the fact that the status of women in UAE society is being strengthened by the day. In just one example, an important ministerial post was assigned to a woman during the latest cabinet reshuffle, a significant sign of just how much headway has been made in enhancing the status of women in the UAE.  


T.D.L.: Iran struck a new agreement with the Franco-German-British troika on November 2004, narrowly escaping being hauled before the Security Council over its nuclear program. What conditions do you think will have to be met before we see this problem resolved once and for all? Do you think the UAE-Iran territorial dispute will be successfully resolved, and that the highly strategic Arab Gulf will become a secure zone in the near future?


H.E.S.S.M.A.A.: The UAE has relentlessly insisted, for many years now, on the need to abolish nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction from the Middle East, Israel included. This stance is in line with the pro-peace policy our country has championed since its founding, which calls for respecting the principle of maintaining peace and security around the globe. As far as the issue of the islands is concerned, at the very start of this crisis, the Emirates called upon Iran to find a solution by engaging in dialogue, or, if necessary, putting the matter before the International Court of Justice.


T.D.L.: What do you consider to be the top priorities for regional cooperation, in light of the trade dispute between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain and ahead of the GCC summit scheduled for later this year in the UAE? Is there still enough time to launch a monetary union before the close of 2005?


H.E.S.S.M.A.A.: In this day and age, the world is developing and moving forward at an incredible pace in a wide variety of areas. The member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council are likewise working together – in a noteworthy fashion, despite an array of obstacles – to lay strong foundations for active cooperation. I can assure you, on this point, that joint economic, political and social programs will be launched in the very near future.


T.D.L.: Your country enacted a new antiterrorism law in the summer of 2004, expanding its arsenal of weapons for preventing the financing of terrorist networks. Has this new law yielded any concrete results?


H.E.S.S.M.A.A.: I would like to start by underscoring the fact that the UAE is renowned for being a country that has achieved security and stability in every arena. Indeed, there is no breach between the peoples of the UAE and their leaders. As for the law in question, the antiterrorism battle is a cause that is unanimously supported by the international community, of which we are an integral part. We share common interests with other States, and have thus vowed to respect this new law, which, by the way, has been a great help in our own battle against money laundering. It has also afforded us an opportunity to coordinate our efforts with partner countries, not to mention the fact that the States in our region are cooperating very closely in the war on terrorism.


T.D.L.:   The UAE has become a leading international trade hub, thanks to the port of Dubai. It was also the first Mideast country to join the U.S. Container Security Initiative. Has the heightened American presence in the region further strengthened the traditionally close ties between Abu Dhabi and Washington?


H.E.S.S.M.A.A.: While most of the countries in the Gulf region have U.S. bases, our country does not. This is due to the relatively advanced capacity and high number of UAE armed forces, along with the fact that we do not have the room to maintain additional military forces alongside them. Like the true professional that it is, the United States knows and understands this perfectly well. We have nonetheless had to adapt to the growing U.S. presence in the region, in order to serve the interests of the Emirates as effectively as possible. These principles are the bedrock of the strategic ties and mutual understanding shared across the board by the United States of America and the United Arab Emirates.


T.D.L.: While oil prices forecast still are uncertain, what is your country doing to help keep prices steady?


H.E.S.S.M.A.A.: It is true that there has been a jump in oil prices, but it must be weighed against the drop in the value of the dollar over this same period. It fact, it must be stressed that the price of all goods in general has risen over the past twenty years.

The jump in oil prices is a result of the laws of the market. It is not the work of OPEC countries, quite to the contrary, since the latter have increased their oil production in order to counteract the price hike. I, personally, think that current prices are reasonable, in light of the weakening dollar. The United Arab Emirates is committed to keeping the oil market stable, which is why our country is doing everything it can to help strike a balance between the interests of oil-producing countries and oil-consuming countries.


T.D.L.: Could you outline the key objectives targeted by President H.H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahayan as he carries on his predecessor’s efforts to open up the UAE by diversifying the federation’s political and economic partnerships? Is your country working to foster a strong dialogue with the European Union?


H.E.S.S.M.A.A.: The Emirates will not waver from the political line set out by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahayan, continuing to defend the values and principles he laid down. H.H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed will follow the same path as his father, laying special emphasis on economic issues and the drive to develop the industrial sector, as well as the matter of technology transfers. In fact, we should begin seeing fresh headway in this arena, as a result of the UAE’s economic policy towards European countries that possess the technologies we are seeking.


T.D.L.: Thanks to the Abu Dhabi Development Fund, financial assistance to foreign nations has become a key ingredient in UAE foreign policy. What is your country doing to help the victims of the recent tsunami in Southern Asia?


H.E.S.S.M.A.A.: Once again, the Emirates will continue to approach this question the same way it has in the past, favoring closer coordination with other countries in an effort to avert unilateral, ineffectual, or limited actions. Collective action is, indeed, preferable to individual action. In this particular case, the UAE was one of the very first countries to provide financial and technical assistance to the countries hit by the tsunami in Southeast Asia.


T.D.L.: Later this year, France and the United Arab Emirates will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the signing of their first cooperation agreement. Do you expect our countries to continue enhancing their already strong relations?


H.E.S.S.M.A.A.:   Our countries do, in fact, already have outstanding relations, especially in the political, military and economic arenas. The UAE market, for instance, is very open to French products. As the Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to France, it is my job to help strengthen the friendly ties between our two peoples and to put forward a more accurate picture of my country, laying special emphasis on its achievements, principles, and values.

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