Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 July 2019

Can the UAE's ties with Germany continue as normal?

Occasionally, longstanding international relationships need to be reappraised – particularly when our own interests are being adversely affected

A man walks in front the Reichstag building, seat of the German parliament, in Berlin. Omer Messinger / EPA
A man walks in front the Reichstag building, seat of the German parliament, in Berlin. Omer Messinger / EPA

The United Arab Emirates has much to be proud of when it comes to diplomacy. From the Vatican to Beijing, Abu Dhabi has forged a wide network of alliances that benefit its people and those of its allies. In addition to political alliances, trade sits at the heart of these ties and their advancement. Political, economic and social ties solidify alliances. Strategic interests mean that even when there are disagreements, we work together to resolve them.

But every now and then, the need arises to reconsider certain relations, especially when our own interests are being impacted adversely. And even when the country in question has enjoyed decades of relations with the UAE, we must be bold in reassessing them. We cannot be complacent with our own interests for historic reasons or diplomatic niceties.

Today, we must ask how our ties with Germany can resume as normal. As part of the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthis in Yemen, the UAE continues its efforts to restore legitimacy to Yemen’s internationally recognised government, as per UN Resolution 2216. Germany, however, sides repeatedly with the very people subjecting Yemen to war and persecution.

Furthermore, the Houthis continue to threaten the waterways essential to free trade and the security of the wider region. In its decision to ban weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, Germany does not affect the Saudi-led coalition’s military ability. Nor will it change the military course of the war, which we are working with the United Nations to end.

We cannot be complacent with our own interests for historic reasons or diplomatic niceties

However, Germany’s move does impact efforts to get to peace and delays the war’s end by giving the Houthis the false impression that they can sway certain western countries to support them. In siding with the Houthis, Germany is indicating that armed non-state actors can impose their will by force. This both threatens our region, but also directly impacts the UAE’s interests in restoring order to Yemen.

The United Kingdom and France have publicly voiced concerns about Germany playing politics with military agreements. While the development and sale of weapons systems from Europe are in questions, German politicians and lawmakers are playing domestic politics for their own gain. The UAE, Saudi Arabia and other countries will have to consider how long they can wait for these matters to resolve before turning to other allies.

Another worrying development is Germany’s repeated support for Iran, which not only supports the Houthis but is destabilising a number of Arab countries. And Berlin does not only ignore Tehran’s actions in the Middle East, but also in Europe. Denmark and the Netherlands have both been pivotal in exposing this Iranian threat. Despite damning evidence of Iranian assassination plots in Europe uncovered this year, involving Iranian diplomats, Germany sides with it repeatedly.

Today, the UAE and Germany are both anchors of stability in our respective regions and we are both multicultural, consensus-oriented and consultative societies. Moreover, the UAE is the largest trading partner for Germany in the Middle East and North Africa region, followed by Saudi Arabia. Our ties extend over political, economic and cultural fields.

The UAE is home to over 900 German companies across a range of sectors that require a trusted and long-term partnership. And yet, Berlin appears to be oblivious to the reality that our security is equal to its own economic prosperity. With a trade surplus of $15 billion, Germany should be seeking ways to solidify our ties, rather than undermine them.

When Berlin time and again sides with our adversaries, we must look into the damage this can cause our own interests and whether we can still count it among our friends.

Ahmed Al Jarwan is President of the Global Council for Tolerance and Peace and member of the UAE Federal National Council

Updated: April 8, 2019 06:32 PM

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