Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 12 December 2019

UAE-US relationship will survive any challenge, says new ambassador

John Rakolta, US ambassador to the UAE, makes first public comments, at Adipec energy event

John Rakolta Jr is the first political appointee to become ambassador to the UAE, a position that is usually reserved for career diplomats.
John Rakolta Jr is the first political appointee to become ambassador to the UAE, a position that is usually reserved for career diplomats.

The UAE's relationship with the US will survive any challenge "from the outside", the new ambassador said on Monday.

John Rakolta, the US ambassador to the UAE, made his first public comments, on the sidelines of the Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition & Conference, since taking up the position on October 27.

He also said US President Donald Trump's administration is committed to “a political solution” to ease tensions with Iran.

“I have met with many of the leaders here and they have made it very clear to me that A, they are 100 per cent in support of a maximum pressure campaign [with Iran]; B, they don’t want to see violence resolve this; and C, a political solution — negotiation — is the only way going forward,” said Mr Rakolta.

The US, now the world’s largest oil producer, has the largest presence at Adipec, an annual four-day energy event, with 108 American companies in attendance.

On top of the agenda at Adipec, which attracts the top brass from the biggest oil and gas companies worldwide to the capital, is grappling with geopolitical uncertainty that is affecting energy prices.

“We are working very closely with the UAE to try to convince Iran that the only solution is a political solution,” said Mr Rakolta. “The president of the United States has made that abundantly clear over and over and over again that the only solution is a political solution. There is no place for violence here in the Middle East, it has to stop.”

The US ambassador post was vacant for 18 months since Barbara Leaf left in 2018. Mr Rakolta, 71, is the first political appointee to become ambassador to the UAE, a position that is usually reserved for career diplomats.

Since 1980, he was chairman and chief executive of the 100-year-old multinational construction company Walbridge. His long career in the private sector shone through momentarily when he referred to the UAE and US as “companies” rather than countries, as he emphasised the importance of a strong trade alliance.

“The UAE has enormous reserves, it is one of the best places in the world to do business and so that’s a great partnership that started over 50 years ago,” Mr Rakolta said. “It will survive any challenge from the outside and will go forward and build and strengthen the ties of our two countries together through energy.”

Last year, total trade between the two countries totalled $24.5 billion, with the US exporting $19.5bn to the UAE. The resulting $14.5bn trade surplus for the US is America’s fourth largest trade surplus globally, according to the American embassy.

Updated: November 13, 2019 08:59 AM

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