Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 10 December 2019

Russian President Vladimir Putin to visit Abu Dhabi

It will be Mr Putin's second visit to the UAE since 2007

Russian president Vladimir Putin will visit Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, it was announced on Thursday.

Mr Putin will travel to the UAE capital from Saudi Arabia, where he will have spent two days on an official visit.

During his trip to Abu Dhabi, he will hold talks with Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.

The two are set to discuss ways to further strengthen bilateral co-operation across several sectors, as well as regional and international developments of mutual interest, reported state news agency Wam.

Mr Putin will be arriving days after the UAE's first astronaut astronaut, Hazza Al Mansouri, returns to the country from a mission to the International Space Station on board a Soyuz rocket.

The president's trip to Abu Dhabi also comes almost exactly 12 years after his last state visit to the UAE, which was also the first by a Russian leader since diplomatic relations were established in December 1971.

Since then, traffic between the two countries has been far from one-way, especially in recent months.

Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, at Aqdar World Summit in Moscow. Courtesy Aqdar World Summit
Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, at Aqdar World Summit in Moscow. Courtesy Aqdar World Summit

In August, no less than eight ministers, headed by Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior, flew to Moscow to participate in the annual Aqdar World Summit which was held in the Russian capital this year.

They were accompanied by some well known names, from the UAE Space Agency to Dubai Expo 2020 and Zayed University, literally setting out their stalls at the summit venue to show Russians what Sheikh Saif called “the success stories” of the UAE and to “present its experiences of empowering humans.”

Trade between the Russia and the UAE reached Dh12.5 billion in 2018, Wam reported.

And the number of Russian companies registered in the UAE has reached 3,000, with around 40,000 Russian citizens now living in the country.

Beyond an important trading and economic partner, the UAE sees Russia as a country with a growing strategic interest in the Middle East.

That role had only just become evident when Mr Putin arrived for his first meeting with President Sheikh Khalifa in September 2007, when he was presented with the Order of Zayed, the UAE's highest honour.

President Sheikh Khalifa presents the UAE's highest award, the Order of Zayed, to Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Mushrif Palace in Abu Dhabi in 2007. Ria Novosti / Dmitry Asrakhov / AFP
President Sheikh Khalifa presents the UAE's highest award, the Order of Zayed, to Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Mushrif Palace in Abu Dhabi in 2007. Ria Novosti / Dmitry Asrakhov / AFP

Mr Putin, who turned 67, last week, was then nearing the end of his first term of office, but saw his Gulf trip, which included Saudi Arabia, as the chance to engage more closely with two of the world’s most important energy suppliers and add Russia’s voice to policy decisions in the Middle East.

Russia and the UAE were already aligned in their concerns about radicalisation and extremism, with the campaign waged by Chechen terrorists costing dozens of Russian lives.

Also significant is Russia’s long relationship with and influence over Iran, and the potential to curb Tehran’s meddling in the region.

These shared areas of interest have took a more concrete form at the 2017 International Defence Exhibition, when it was announced that Russia and the UAE would jointly develop a new 5th generation fighter aircraft.

Sheikh Mohamed visited Moscow later that year and returned in 2018, when he and Mr Putin signed a declaration of a strategic political, security, economic and cultural partnership at the Kremlin.

“Our relations are very important and we emphasise the keenness to develop them,” Sheikh Mohamed said after the meeting, adding he hoped the growth in trade would “hit new heights”.

Those mutual expressions of common interest were reinforced again in June, with a phone call between Sheikh Mohamed and Mr Putin.

For ordinary Russians and Emiratis, too, the close relationship between the two countries has offered the chance to get to know each other a little better.

UAE passport holders can now get a visa on arrival in Russia, while Russians coming to the UAE now receive an automatic free 30 day visa when they step off the plane.

The result is good business for UAE hotels and shopping malls. Around one million Russian tourists now visit the UAE annually.

Updated: October 11, 2019 06:55 AM

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