x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

UAE foreign policy ‘will not be burdened by rest of Arab world’, says Gargash

Regional events – most notably in Egypt and Syria - were “daunting and worrisome”, making stability the UAE’s biggest concern, says Dr Anwar Gargash at the Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Majlis.

Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, was speaking about the UAE's foreign policy at the Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Majlis . Ryan Carter / Crown Prince Court - Abu Dhabi
Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, was speaking about the UAE's foreign policy at the Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Majlis . Ryan Carter / Crown Prince Court - Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI // The UAE’s foreign policy will not be burdened by the rest of the Arab world as it strengthens its ties with Asia, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs said at a majlis on Wednesday.

Dr Anwar Gargash, also the Minister of State for Federal National Council Affairs, told the Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Majlis that the country’s foreign policy was focused towards stability and development.

The UAE must “invest in our relations more”, with regards to Asia, he said, adding that of the 16 most important embassies to the UAE, five represent Asian countries. The country’s relations with central Asia must also be direct, and not through a western middle-man.

“We need a practical mechanism for boosting ties with east Asia. We know it is a good thing but just talking about it is not enough,” he said.

Dr Gargash told the audience, including Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed, the National Security Adviser and diplomats and other government officials, that the UAE has not shied away from making strong stances when needed.

He said regional events were “daunting and worrisome”, making stability the UAE’s biggest concern – most notably in Egypt and Syria.

“We need stability and success in Egypt. And we need the start of a political transitional solution in Syria. We cannot be stable with blazes all around us. We see that things are still hard.”

And although the region does not suffer from a language barrier, sectarianism and hatred still has room to grow, he said.

Other topics broached included the Arab Spring. While the UAE supported it, Dr Gargash said, abuse towards it had started as events heightened, opening the door to a wave of Political Islamic views.

Regional conflict also shed light on concerns the UAE had about the Muslim Brotherhood, who Dr Gargash said had interfered greatly with the UAE’s internal affairs.

Looking ahead, the discussion moved on to the UAE’s need to continue focusing on development goals.

These included keeping an eye on both the region and international community, under instructions made several years ago by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.

Dr Gargash said the country’s relationship with Washington had also evolved, from focusing on policy and military to other social aspects.

Development was another aspiration for the Arab world, a world that needed unity, he added.

“The UAE wants for Arabs what it wants for itself.”

Social media was spoken of as a hurdle, and one that has distanced Arabs rather than unite them by causing “unnecessary sensitivities”.

The Gulf Cooperative Council, which gives the region backing and is “crucial for the outside world”, is able to provide the unity Arabs needed, he said, adding that the GCC was stronger in that aspect than the Arab League.

The ongoing crises in Syria, Egypt and Iraq should also be dealt with internally, rather than on an international level.

More importantly, however, is the UAE and GCC’s stability in deciding foreign policy issues.

“The UAE is a success story in the region, a region where good news is hard to come by,” he said.

Had it not been for the “unshaken house”, this stability would not be possible and a strong foreign policy would not have been achieved.

“This we hear from many who value the UAE’s foreign policy and ask for our opinion.”

This feeling has been felt abroad, he said, with official visits to foreign countries revealing the deep respect and admiration other nations had for the UAE.

The audience also heard that the UAE is working hard to guarantee its citizens – the country’s main concern – visa-free travel to Europe.

The gross domestic product of the UAE was about US$350 billion (Dh1.3tn), Dr Gargash said, but the country was looking to boost it. He added that the country has also attracted about $100bn in foreign investment.

Dr Gargash concluded by calling upon Emirati diplomats to promote the country’s achievements to the rest of the world and not only on National Day.

osalem@thenational.ae