Thursday, July 18, 2024

Anwar Kargash to CNN: Relations with Russia a “calculated risk” in increasingly polarized world

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ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (CNN) — Russia’s biggest economic forum, which has been shunned by the West since its invasion of Ukraine, hosted a high-profile guest at the last minute on Friday, the president of the Emirates, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

During his working visit to Russia, the UAE President briefly toured the country’s pavilion at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF).

As of Friday morning, most of the foreign officials listed in the audience were mostly at the ministerial level, representing countries that are neutral in Russia’s war on Ukraine.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed told Russian President Vladimir Putin: “I am delighted to be here today with Your Excellency, and we want to develop this relationship and trust you to do so.”

The forum was held in Putin’s hometown and was once one of Russia’s main international summits.

However, the event has seen no Western presence since the Ukraine war, and the emergence of a prominent Emirati president threatens to anger the United States and Europe, who are bent on isolating Russia on the international stage.

For the UAE, it’s a “calculated risk,” part of the Gulf state’s policy in an increasingly polarized world, he told CNN in exclusive comments.

“This polarization must be broken,” said Dr. Anwar Kargash, diplomatic adviser to the UAE president. “Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed is meeting with many Western leaders and it is important that he hears from President Putin. He can support the joint efforts of the international community,” he added. “We are trying to listen to all sides” to overcome the current polarization, he added.

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Kargash described the UAE president’s visit to Russia as part of that policy to ensure channels remain open with Putin.

In their televised meeting, Putin thanked Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed for his efforts to “resolve humanitarian issues in the context of events related to the exchange of prisoners in Ukraine.”

The official Emirates News Agency (WAM) said Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed spoke to Putin about speeding up efforts to “mitigate the humanitarian consequences of the crisis and support prisoner exchange efforts on both sides”.

Gargash said, “Instead of taking the traditional view of moving away from a crisis that overwhelms everyone … we really need to think about making a positive difference.”

In December, the United Arab Emirates brokered the release of American basketball player Brittney Griner in exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bode.

A senior Emirati official told CNN in December that Sheikh Mohammed’s meeting with Putin last October was part of Britney Greener’s release.

“The UAE is building its influence globally through mediation,” said Tina Esfandiari, senior adviser to the International Crisis Group’s Middle East and North Africa program.

“He’s in a good position to do that because he’s maintaining his relationship with Russia, he’s also talking to the United States,” Espandier told CNN.

A year after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Gulf state’s balancing act shows a broader policy of prudent neutrality across the Middle East, as well as the inability of the United States to align its allies in the Middle East with the Western bloc. against its enemies.

The United Arab Emirates maintains 5,000 US troops at Al Tafra Air Base outside its capital, Abu Dhabi.

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Over the past three years, the UAE has developed close ties with Israel, becoming one of its closest allies in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, bilateral trade with Russia is expected to grow by 68% to $9 billion in 2022, mostly Russian exports to the UAE.

This still pales in comparison to China, which reached $72 billion in non-oil trade alone, or its largest trading partner, the United States, which is expected to reach $23 billion by 2021.

The UAE continues to open communication with Iran, expand trade ties with China and mend strained ties with Turkey.

But the UAE’s policy towards Russia has called on the US to issue warnings about individuals and companies that allow Russia to evade sanctions, as it risks losing access to G7 markets.

The United Arab Emirates is this year’s country “guest of honor” at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, and is represented at the 4-day event by the ruler of one of the seven emirates that make up the federation. With Abdullah Bin Duq Al-Marri, Emirati Minister of Economy.

Espandiari said the UAE would “examine the situation before going to extremes with Russia”.

Bill Dittman
Bill Dittman
"Freelance alcohol fan. Coffee maven. Musicaholic. Food junkie. Extreme web expert. Communicator."

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