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UAE adopts balanced foreign policy -National Day Report 2003

posted on 23/11/2003: 1775 views

It is said that policy reflects the ideology and perspective of the policy maker. Taking this into account, the balanced foreign policy of the UAE, which is based on principles like making wise decisions, moderation, and support for truth and justice, reflects the wisdom of President H.H. Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who is known for his wisdom and visionary approach to issues of great importance.

Since the formation of its federation in 1971, the UAE has consistently pursued an even-handed and judicious foreign policy that is based on the principles of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries, respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of nations and inadmissibility of acquisition of territory by force, as enshrined in the United Nations' Charter.

Following a successful drive on the domestic level to lay down the foundations of the country's infrastructure and socio-economic growth, the father of the modern UAE, President H.H Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan then focused on building ties with countries of the world, conceiving the role of the UAE among the comity of nations as one that promotes the global culture of dialogue and understanding. " As leaders responsible for our nations, we ought to adhere to the values of tolerance and dialogue when dealing with one another. This should be our guiding principle when dealing with various issues.

Dialogue and wisdom should always take precedence over confrontation, war and destruction,” Sheikh Zayed once remarked. But in spite of the fact that the UAE upheld the principles of dialogue tolerance and understanding, it nevertheless remained committed to the causes of the oppressed people around the world. This is a support that the UAE has extended as matter of principle irrespective of whether or not that support would contradict the position of the bigger powers.

Despite their somewhat tiny positions in the world's stage, small nations nevertheless have the responsibility of ensuring that justice prevails and should be extended to all people of the world, President Sheikh Zayed once remarked. This is a principle that the UAE has upheld and continued to pursue and advocate. It has also sent out loud and clear messages to this effect and stuck to its position even at times when it had to take a different view from that of the major world players.

While the UAE strictly adhered to principles of justice and equality, it has sought to play its role as a peace-loving nation, extending bonds of friendliness and cooperation to many friendly and sisterly countries around the world. This role contributed to the reinforcement of values of tolerance and co-existence among nations of the world, as enunciated in the UN Charter.

Today, as the UAE celebrates the 32nd anniversary of its federation, it ranks among the world community as a strong proponent of peaceful dialogue, tolerance and global peace and stability. The UAE foreign policy would not have made the successes that it made, had it not been founded on the strongest indigenous values of the UAE society as well as those of the larger Arab and Islamic culture. In this respect, President Sheikh Zayed has always said: "The UAE foreign policy stems from the noble value and principle which we have cherished the most, and that is, our continuous desire to do what is acceptable to God. We believe that this is the greatest principle, which laid the sound basis for our understanding with the rest of our brothers and sisters in the international community”.

It also on this understanding and spirit, noted Sheikh Zayed that the UAE constitution was written. The constitution stipulates quite clearly that the UAE federation is a part and parcel of the greater and Islamic community, with which it shares common linguistic, religious and historical heritage.

The constitution also made it clear that the UAE would safeguard and preserve its entity within the greater Arab community while at the same time remaining cognizant of its domestic, regional and international obligations. The amalgamation of all these components resulted in what turned out later to be an even-handed foreign policy. It is a policy that had been built gradually and judiciously over the decades, beginning with the enthronement of Sheikh Zayed as Ruler of Abu Dhabi emirate in 1966, followed five years later with the formation of the UAE federation in 1971 and ten years later with the formation of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), whose birth was announced in Abu Dhabi in 1981.

It is quite evident from this history that Sheikh Zayed's encompassing vision of unity had been a long cherished one. But he had been conscious of the fact it would take patience and time to achieve that goal rather than have it imposed haphazardly. "People accuse me of being a unionist, and this is an accusation that I do not deny. But my vision of unity is not an imposed one. Unity should be based on the free will and common interests of the people,” he said.

This is the same view, which Sheikh Zayed expressed when he was asked about the objectives of GCC shortly after its formation. He said: " The GCC is an important step towards solidarity and cooperation among the Gulf countries, aimed at achieving greater interests of the people of the region”.

On whether or not the formation of the new body would not contradict the objectives of the Arab League, Sheikh Zayed said: " Our foreign policy would be two-fold. On the one level, we will work to reinforce cooperation with our Arab and Muslim brothers who are indeed part of us. On the other level, we will work with the greater human family, consisting of friendly countries with whom we will continue to extend friendly ties. Our relations with these countries will continue to be based on mutual respect”

On the issue of the occupied UAE islands of Abu Musa, Greater and Lesser Tunbs, the UAE has clearly demonstrated its adherence to the values of tolerance, dialogue and good neighbourliness in its pursuit of its just and strong case. While consistently affirming its right over the islands, the UAE pursued its case through peaceful means as directed by President Sheikh Zayed. "It has been always our desire that relations with our neighbours be based on mutual understanding that takes historical ties into consideration. It is inconceivable that we would one day abuse our relations with our neighbours. If there is any misunderstanding between us and our neighbours, then we will invoke God's help to give wisdom and patience to resolve it without resorting to any means that may harm our mutual interests”.

In line with this judicious stand, the UAE has repeatedly called on Iran to join it in ending the dispute either through international arbitration or through direct talks. This is a position that the UAE stressed in its address at the United Nations on September 26, in which Foreign Minister Rashid Abdullah re-affirmed the UAE's sovereignty over the isles, their territorial waters, coral reefs and the economic zone. The UAE made numerous overtures in this respect to ensure that the parties reach a successful conclusion, said the Minister, who urged Iran to deal positively with this sensitive and important issue by ending its occupation of the three UAE islands. He expressed the hope that the ongoing bilateral talks and contacts between the two countries would lead to an amicable settlement of the issue in order to enhance the relations of good neighbourliness, cooperation and mutual interest of the of the two countries. This, he said, would enhance security and stability and bring prosperity to the region.

On the Iraqi issue, the UAE President was the only Arab leader, who boldly asked the former Iraqi President, Saddam Hussein, to resign from his post to save his country, in particular, and the Gulf region, in general, the devastation of another war. Although he made the request in his address to the Arab Summit, which was held in February this year at the Egyptian resort town of Sharm Al Sheik, the Iraqi leadership totally rejected the call, leading to the destructive war that broke out less than one month from the time of this call. The UAE has reiterated at all regional and international meetings its total rejection to waging war on Iraq and called for a diplomatic solution to the crisis, but to no avail.

In a recent interview with Al Ahram newspaper, Sheikh Zayed said Arabs had the duty of alleviating the suffering of the Iraqi people and also work collectively to avert any war against Iraq. Sheikh Zayed told the paper that diplomatic efforts should take precedence over any other options, adding that any unilateral action by any party in favour of war would lead to negative repercussions in the region. "Wars cannot solve problems. Differences should be solved within the context of the international law and UN Charter” Sheikh Zayed told the paper. In another statement at the UN, the UAE underlined the position adopted by the Arab countries at their Beirut Summit in March last year, which called for the preservation of the unity of Iraq and its territorial integrity.

Soon after the fall of Baghdad in the war on Iraq, the UAE rushed to the aid of the Iraqi people to help alleviate their sufferings. Sheik Zayed ordered the quick dispatch of relief assistance. The UAE Red Crescent Society, led by its Chairman, Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, played a significant role in supplying the Iraqi people relief assistance, including food, medical and humanitarian assistance.

The UAE was among the first countries, which recognized the interim government of the Iraqi Governing Council, IGC, and contributed immensely in convincing other Arab countries to allow the IGC to take part in the Arab League council meeting, which was held last September in Cairo. The UAE also received the IGC delegation when the latter, headed by its then rotation president, Ibrahim Al Jafari, visited the UAE last August on its first stop of a tour of Arab countries. Al Jafari expressed the gratitude of the Iraqi people to the UAE government and people for the latter's unstinting support for the Iraqi people.

On the Palestinian issue, the UAE continued to provide support since the beginning of Al Aqsa Intifada in 2000. In the wake of the unfortunate events of September 11, President Sheikh Zayed called on the international community to focus on the Israeli terrorism against the Palestinian people in the same way it would fight international terrorism. On the humanitarian front, the UAE also continued to provide assistance to the civilian population in Palestine and also undertook the reconstruction of the Jenin refugee camp. The UAE also offered to renovate the Church of Nativity and the neighbouring Omar Ibn Khatab Mosque.

The Mosque and Church are being renovated on the expenses of Sheikh Zayed. Other UAE assistance includes contributing in the infrastructure projects in areas under the Palestinian National Authority (PNA). One of these projects is the Sheikh Zayed City in Gaza. The foundation stone of this city was laid by Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Information and Culture during a visit to Gaza in 2001 year.

At the UN, the UAE continuously called on the international community, particularly the US and EU to put more pressure on Israel to end its occupation of Arab territories and implement the relevant UN resolutions on the Middle East, including the revival of the stalled Middle East peace process and the implementation of the Roadmap to peace in the Middle East agreement, which will lead ultimately to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in 2005. The UAE also demanded that Israel lifts its siege on Palestinian President, Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian people; pull down the racially motivated separation wall and free Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons.

The UAE foreign Minister reiterated that reaching a just, comprehensive and permanent solution to the Palestinian issue and the Middle East issue in general demands full Israeli compliance with all international resolutions, based on the principle of land for peace and the Arab peace initiative, which was unanimously approved by the Beirut Summit, which also dealt with the Syrian and Lebanese tracks of the peace process, by calling on Israel to withdraw from all Palestinian and Arab lands which the Jewish entity has been occupying since 1967, including Jerusalem, Syria's Golan Heights and Lebanon's Shebaa Farms.

The UAE also called for more pressure on Israel to heed to calls for a safer Middle East, free from weapons of mass destruction. On the issue of terrorism, the UAE was among the first countries to condemn all forms of terrorism and called for an international conference in which the international community would arrive at an agreed concept for terrorism in accordance with the UN Charter. The UAE Foreign Minister said that his country, having totally condemned terrorism in all its form, called for concerted local, regional and international efforts to eradicate this dangerous phenomenon. He expressed deep regret on and total condemnation of the terrorist and criminal attack on the UN Headquarters and the Jordanian Embassy, both in Baghdad, the bombing of the Imam Ali Mosque in Najaf, in which Imam Baqer Al Hakim and a number of innocent people lost their lives, as well as the terrorist attacks in the bombing of a housing complex in Riyadh on November 9, 2003 in which hundreds were killed or maimed.

Abdullah also reiterated his country's support for all the countries, which suffered terrorist attacks, particularly the Saudi government, in its war against terror. When the terrorists bombed the a housing complex in Riyadh on November 9, Sheikh Zayed sent a cable of solidarity and condolences to King Fadh bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia. The UAE cabinet also condemned the heinous act during its meeting on November 10. On diplomatic relations, the UAE currently has diplomatic ties with 146 countries and hosts 73 embassies, compared to three in 1971. There are 35 non-resident ambassadors and 54 consulates in Dubai. The UAE has 46 embassies and 7 consulates abroad and two Permanent Missions to the United Nations in New York and Geneva. (The Emirates News Agency, WAM)


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