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UAE's Foreign Policy: effective contribution to international security and stability

posted on 25/06/2013: 1128 views



The foreign policy of the UAE, the broad framework of which was laid down by the country's founding father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, is characterised by prudence, tolerance and moderation. Its fundamental principles are commitment to the Charter of the United Nations, respect for international law and charters and the establishment of relations with all states based on mutual respect, the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other sovereign states, the settlement of disputes through dialogue and other peaceful means, championing just and rightful causes as well as making an effective contribution to international security and stability.

To achieve these goals, the country has purposefully promoted partnerships and dialogue with countries around the world. Relying on these tools of engagement has allowed the Government to pursue effective, balanced and wide-ranging ties with the international community.

The UAE is dedicated to peace, security and stability in the Arab region, as well as the normalisation of relations between all countries and a just and lasting solution to the Middle East conflict. It believes that peace cannot be achieved while the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian and other Arab territories continues; it supports an end to Israeli occupation and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, within the context of an agreement based on the Arab Peace Initiative.

A current focus of attention, of course, is the appalling and dangerous conflict in Syria. As has been noted by the Foreign Minister, the UAE supports the emergence of a non-sectarian government in the country, which will protect the rights of its various communities. With regards to the current, and escalating, civil conflict, the UAE has provided substantial support for refugees in neighbouring countries, while participating in the Friends of Syria group, supporting Arab and international initiatives to bring the bloodshed to an end and in the work of the Task Force entrusted with future reconstruction of the Syrian economy.

As was noted by the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Anwar Gargash, at a Partnership for future investment in Syria' conference held last year in Dubai , "After decades of suffering of the Syrian people, a new generation open to the world should be rehabilitated, to motivate the creativity and innovations seen among Syrian abroad." The UAE is one of the major contributors to humanitarian assistance and development projects in Palestine, as well as to the direct budget of the Palestinian Authority. Overall, the UAE has provided over US$3 billion in aid to the Palestinians, including development funds for infrastructure, housing, hospital and school projects. In addition, the country donated US$174 million towards reconstruction in Gaza.

Elsewhere in the region, while the UAE considers that relations with Egypt are strategic and long-term, the Foreign Minister, HH Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, has noted that the principle of non-interference in internal affairs is observed.

Despite the long-running dispute with Iran on the question of the three occupied UAE islands of Abu Musa and Greater and Lesser Tunb and worries about Iran's nuclear programme, the UAE has kept open all channels of constructive engagement that could result in a mechanism for confidence-building measures and the peaceful resolution of all outstanding issues. While continuing to demand the restoration of the UAE's full sovereignty over the three islands, the UAE remains committed to its proposal that the issue should be settled either through direct, serious negotiations or by referral to the International Court of Justice.

The UAE continues to contribute constructively to the international efforts aimed at stabilising Afghanistan. Besides the active role played by units of the UAE Armed Forces in supporting the Afghan government to restore the security, the UAE has also provided Dh5.5 billion in aid to Afghanistan, mainly devoted to infrastructure: road-building, schools, mosques and hospitals. The UAE is the only Arab country performing humanitarian activities on the ground in Afghanistan. The UAE also emphasises the importance of achieving harmony, building confidence and strengthening cooperation between Afghanistan and its neighbours, particularly Pakistan.

Given Pakistan's proximity to the Gulf region, the UAE has continued to affirm the importance of that country's stability. The Project to Assist Pakistan is carrying out 28 development and humanitarian projects worth US$54.5 million in South Waziristan province, including schools and colleges. The UAE has funded the construction of two bridges over the River Swat that had collapsed in massive floods in the area in 2010 as well as providing other support for Pakistani humanitarian and development projects.

Beyond the region, the UAE's foreign policy continues to adapt to accommodate the evolving changes in the global community. As part of its pragmatic approach, the UAE is building bilateral and multilateral relations with both industrialised and developing countries, while strengthening ties both with its traditional allies in the West and with those in South and East Asia.

Relations with NATO have developed significantly since the UAE joined the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI) in 2004. The UAE was the first partner from the ICI to establish an office at NATO headquarters in Brussels in April 2013, which will permit NATO to expand its cooperation in the context of the ICI. The UAE has closely worked with NATO for the establishment of stability and security in several regions, from Bosnia to Afghanistan to Libya, and its forces have cooperated, with great efficiency, with NATO forces on the ground and in the air.

Relations with the European Union have continued to strengthen with the opening of an EU diplomatic mission to the UAE in January 2013, while ties with individual EU members are also deepening, in a wide range of areas, including trade and political and security collaboration. One recent event of particular importance was the late April visit to the United Kingdom by President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, during which the long-standing ties of friendship between the two countries were re-affirmed and reinforced.

As the second-largest Arab economy, the UAE's foreign policy is naturally also geared towards creating greater commercial opportunities with various partners. An important aspect of the UAE's foreign policy, therefore, places great emphasis on nurturing an expansion of commercial and investment links with other countries and institutions worldwide. The UAE's fast-developing position as a financial hub for the region has further solidified and strengthened its position as a member of the global community.

In line with this approach, the UAE's diversification of intense diplomatic contacts included Africa and its regional groupings. The Government's aim is to strengthen cooperation by entering into bilateral and multilateral partnerships with African countries in accordance with the Millennium Development Goals. The UAE is keen to fight poverty and ensure that Africa receives a fair and equitable share of global prosperity.

As Asia weathered the economic crisis more successfully than other parts of the world, there were ample indications that some of the major Asian countries would play a more influential role in world politics. Absorbing this shift and reflecting the desire to further consolidate ties, the UAE leadership continued to develop its relations with a number of Asian countries, including China and India.

The UAE's quest for nuclear energy also witnessed intense diplomatic efforts to develop cooperation mechanisms to guarantee a credible and comprehensive civilian programme. This push resulted in the signing of the UAE-US Peaceful Nuclear Cooperation Agreement in 2009, the first such arrangement in the Middle East. The deal, which is touted as a powerful and timely model' for the region, allows the UAE to buy American nuclear power equipment, technology and fuel. In turn, the UAE - a Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) signatory - has agreed to open its nuclear facilities to full international inspections and refrain from producing its own reactor fuel.

Referring to the UAE's civilian nuclear programme, Foreign Minister HH Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed told the UN General Assembly last year that: We are confident that this will provide an opportunity to make a positive change in the international arena. We hope that developing a peaceful nuclear energy model - which complies with the highest standards of transparency in operating the nuclear facilities and fulfils the highest requirements of nuclear safety and non-proliferation, in cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency and other responsible and experienced states - would chart a new course for a large group of countries for the safe use of nuclear energy, with international support.

The UAE's commitment not to enrich uranium and reprocess fuels locally is among the most salient features of this model. This is a model supported by enhanced international transparency and cooperation mechanisms. The policy supports the principles of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and reflects the UAE's position, which calls for making the Middle East and the Gulf a zone free of weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons.

The UAE also signed a memorandum of cooperation with Japan to explore possibilities of developing peaceful nuclear energy. This follows similar agreements with the UK and France in the past.

The Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) approved the UAE's ratification of the additional nuclear inspection measures known as the Additional Protocol, which ensures commitment to the NPT. The UAE's nuclear energy programme has won plaudits from the IAEA as setting a model for other nations willing to develop peaceful nuclear energy programmes.

Another key area of UAE cooperation has been in the global fight against terrorism. While emphasising the need for a clear definition of terrorism, the UAE has also insisted that state-sponsored terror should not be tolerated. In the process, it has collaborated with countries that have been victims of terrorism through effective information exchange and discussing ways of alleviating social and economic deprivation, which could nurture terrorist recruitment. Further, international partnerships have intensified in the areas of money-laundering and human trafficking.

The UAE has also committed to forging new institutions that support international cooperation, including countering terrorism. In December 2012, the Hedayah (Arabic for Guidance) Centre, also known as the International Centre for Excellence in Countering Violent Extremism, opened in Abu Dhabi, with the support of the UAE Government and a number of friendly countries. - Emirates News Agency, WAM

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