x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Chile looks to UAE for energy and water guidance for Atacama Desert

On his first official visit to the Emirates, the Chilean foreign minister says the Emirates expertise in renewable energy would be useful for the world's driest desert.

The Atacama Desert is the world's driest.
The Atacama Desert is the world's driest.

ABU DHABI // Chile is looking to the UAE's expertise in renewable energy and water to develop the Atacama Desert, which is known as the world's driest.

In his first official visit to the UAE on Sunday, Alfredo Morena Charme, the Chilean foreign minister, visited Masdar City.

"We have in the northern part of the country the driest desert in the world and we have the mining industry there, so we need a lot of energy and water to sustain it," said Mr Moreno.

The Atacama Desert covers 105,000 square-kilometres on the Pacific north coast of Chile, west of the Andes mountains, and is comparable to the surface of Mars according to Nasa.

"What the UAE is doing with renewable energy, water and its consumption is something very useful to us."

Mr Moreno said Chile is willing to learn and share whatever knowledge they have in the field. "We have a similar problem, we looked at what has been done at Masdar City and were very impressed."

Plans to send Chilean students to the Masdar Institute to gain expertise and knowledge are being discussed, he said.

"There is a Chilean professor here and we are working with him to set this up, as well as working with the local authorities to send not only scientists but entrepreneurs from Chile who can work on developing these projects," he explained.

Mr Moreno described the relationship between Chile and the UAE as one of strategic importance.

"We are signing a memorandum of understanding to establish political consultations," he said.

The MOU, signed on Sunday evening, outlined members of both governments who will conduct periodical meetings discussing, global, regional and bilateral issues.

"We have the same position on most issues," said Mr Moreno. "In fact, in Syria now and Libya before that we share the same views and approach."

"We have a lot of people who came generations ago from Palestine and Lebanon. The largest Palestinian community outside the Middle East are in Chile, so people are closely following what's happening in Syria," he said.

He described the Syrian situation as "a disappointment". "We gave been working with the UN in Syria and are looking for the peaceful solutions but until now the international community has failed to stop it and it has been going on for too long."

Mr Moreno also met with the Minister of Foreign Trade Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi yesterday.

The UAE's trade volume with Chile grew by 49 per cent last year compared to 2010, Mr Moreno said, but he hopes to further increase that figure.

"Trade is very small. We feel we can do much better. That is why we are working on free trade negotiations," he said.

According to the Chilean ambassador to the UAE, Mr Jean-Paul Tarud, the UAE is Chile's number one trade partner in the GCC followed closely by Saudi Arabia.

Last year, UAE exports to Chile last year reached Dh3.67 million and re-export activities reached Dh77 million - a 132 per cent increase over 2010.

Mr Moreno also revealed a UAE airline was currently studying opening a route to Santiago. "We have the open skies agreement and [airlines] can fly directly to Santiago or via Sao Paulo now, but they are still studying it," he said.

Mr Moreno left the UAE for India yesterday from where he will head on to China.

"We have a limited trade agreement with them and we are going to discuss its expansion with India as well as discuss South American and bilateral issues in China," he said.

amustafa@thenational.ae