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Visit of Joe Biden to UAE: another step in journey to strengthen and sustain deep-rooted ties of friendship

posted on 07/03/2016: 1169 views



The UAE has been expanding its political options in the international arena to strengthen relations with major countries, influential regional powers and emerging countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and others.

The United States of America comes at the top of the list of major countries with which the UAE seeks to strengthen relations and forge partnerships in all fields, given its status as an active international power, especially on Middle East issues. The United States enjoys advanced experiences in various technological, nuclear and space areas and the UAE can benefit from these experiences to boost its knowledge-based economy drive.

UAE-US relations have recently witnessed remarkable growth in the light of mutual visits between the leaders of the two countries, as well as rapid development of political, economic, trade and military relations. These culminated with the UAE's full support for the international coalition on counter-terrorism.

The forthcoming visit of US Vice President Joe Biden comes within this framework. The visit gains momentum in the UAE and the region due to the nature of the challenges facing the region, as well as increasing UAE-US cooperation in all fields, notably on counter-terrorism and extremism.

The visit of Vice President Biden to the UAE is the second visit to the UAE of a top US official after the visit of the former US President, George Bush, in 2008. It further boosts strategic relations between the UAE and the US.

The visit of the US Vice President to the UAE is part of a series of high-profile mutual visits of senior officials of the two countries, the most recent of which was the visit of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, to the US in May, 2015.

Biden's visit represents another opportunity to discuss regional and international issues within the framework of mutual interest and the increasing role of the UAE in the international arena, given its political, economic and humanitarian roles seen in the Arab and international counter-terrorism coalitions, and its provision of humanitarian aid to many areas devastated by terrorist activities which have caused huge displacements of people.

Indeed, the visit of the Vice President reflects the increasing international role of the UAE, led by President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. It also consolidates the two nations' contributions to regional and international peace, as well as boosting UAE cooperation with the US to reinforce their strategic partnership. This visit follows the two visits paid by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed to the US, where he met US President, Barrack Obama.

These two visits serve to reinforce the strength and growth of relations between the UAE and the US, based on joint interests and coordination between the leaders of the two countries. While in the US, H.H. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed took part in the US-GCC Summit at Camp David, on May 14th, 2015. The meeting constituted a quality shift in the track of GCC-US relations on one hand, and UAE-US relations on the other, with Washington appreciating the role of the UAE, and its responsible balanced positions in the Middle East and the world.

The UAE-US relationship has its foundation in a shared commitment to promoting peace and security in the Gulf, joint efforts in counter-terrorism and deterring threats to regional stability. The partnership has become stronger over the years, with exceptional growth in bilateral trade, economic cooperation and cultural partnerships.

The visit of H.H. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed to the United States in 2015 came at a time when momentous events were unfolding in the region and the world. The visit provided the UAE with an opportunity to exchange views and consultations with the United States on these developments, particularly on issues related to regional security and stability, the fight against Daesh, the situation in Yemen, the current developments in both Syria and Libya, and the escalation of extremism and terrorism in the region.

This visit was a good opportunity to emphasise the ties and friendship between the two countries, and the shared desire to develop them. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed stressed that, "The United Arab Emirates, led by President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, attaches great importance to strengthening mutual cooperation with the United States in various fields, so as to achieve the aspirations of the leaders of the two countries and their peoples in accordance with the solid foundations of mutual respect, trust and common interests."

President Obama expressed his satisfaction at his meeting with His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed and their exchange of views on issues of mutual interest, particularly joint cooperation and the latest developments taking place in the Middle East. He said that the meeting reflected the esteem afforded by the US administration to the United Arab Emirates, its wise leadership, and the extent of its commitment for interaction at the highest levels.

The visit of Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed to the United States, and the talks he had held with President Obama in the presence of Vice President Joe Biden, gained great importance as they were based on the strategic relations and focus on aspects of cooperation between the two countries, issues of mutual interest, and regional and international developments.

Sheikh Mohamed conveyed to President Obama greetings of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and his wishes of further progress and prosperity to the people of the United States. President Obama asked Sheikh Mohamed to convey his greetings to UAE President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

H.H. Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan, National Security Adviser, and H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and US Secretary of State John Kerry also attended the meeting, which reinforced the strong bilateral relationship between the UAE and the US.

The meeting further discussed the framework agreement on Iran's nuclear programme signed recently between the P5+1 and Iran, and the need for the final deal to be binding for Iran, to take into account the international concerns regarding nuclear proliferation, and the threat to peace, security and stability in the region and the world.

The Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and President Obama expressed a shared commitment to the importance of the Gulf Cooperation Council-US alliance as a key pillar of regional stability and security. The two leaders agreed on the need to enhance security cooperation between the GCC and US to challenge aggression and extremism throughout the region, a key focus of the Camp David meeting.

The Crown Prince thanked the President for his personal commitment and Secretary of State John Kerry's untiring efforts in the P5+1 talks with Iran. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed stressed the importance of preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the Arabian Gulf and the UAE's vital interest in the strongest possible verification measures in any final agreement.

The meeting also touched on the latest developments in the Arab region and ways to achieve security and stability in Yemen, Syria and Libya, preserve their national and territorial unity and put an end to the bloodshed and loss of innocent lives.

The meeting highlighted the importance of implementing UN resolutions and the GCC initiative regarding Yemen for defusing the crisis, and discussed the role of the Arab coalition, led by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in which the UAE is taking part, in order to restore legitimacy and protect the security and stability of the people of Yemen.

The two sides discussed the air strikes carried out by the international coalition against Daesh and the need for the international community and coalition to continue their commitment, and counter terrorist organisations to prevent them from spreading, so as to maintain the world's security and stability.

Both sides underscored the importance of achieving security, stability and peace, promoting the principles of tolerance and peaceful coexistence in the region and the world, and dismissing extremism, fanaticism, violence and terrorism.

The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and President Obama also welcomed their countries' expansive and growing bilateral trade relationship, noting that the UAE remains the US's largest trading partner in the Middle East. They discussed further economic cooperation and the importance of open trading and investment policies.

The meetings marked the beginning of Sheikh Mohamed's two-day visit to Washington, DC, which included discussions with other senior US government officials and congressional leaders.

The strong ties between the UAE and US are deeply rooted in shared interests and common values. Together, the two countries are working to promote regional security, create economic prosperity, and address pressing global challenges. Meanwhile, the UAE's peaceful nuclear programme has become a role model for dealing with such sensitive technology.

UAE diplomacy has played a pivotal role in containing regional and international tensions, crises and conflicts. The country has also worked tirelessly and continuously to promote direct and indirect humanitarian relief, development and economic assistance to many developing countries, especially those experiencing conflict situations or natural disasters.

In addition, the UAE has made other contributions to many peacekeeping operations, protection of civilians and reconstruction of post-conflict areas. This move depicts distinctive partnership with several parties, particularly the US, to achieve the noble goals of international stability, peace and security.

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed's visit to the US before the Camp David Summit was an opportunity to clarify the GCC's stance over Iran's nuclear deal, which had raised concerns in the region. While participating in the summit meetings, Sheikh Mohamed's remarks emphasised the UAE's balanced vision regarding security and stability of the region. He stressed that the security of the Gulf region is an essential part of global stability, given the region's economic, political and strategic importance.

He said that the United Arab Emirates and the Gulf Cooperation Council states, "are quite aware of the size of responsibility on their shoulders to maintain the integrity of the region. They have managed through various stages and periods to employ their capacities and capabilities to tackle the challenges and risks."

Sheikh Mohamed underlined that the United States, "Is a key strategic partner for the GCC and has a vital role in maintaining security and stability in the region, given its global weight, central role, and mutual interests between the two sides, as well as joint cooperation and close partnership," adding that "This important historical stage requires all of us in the GCC to cooperate with our friends by developing a framework of cooperation to serve mutual interests and establish a new stage that takes into account the new threats and challenges."

He added, "We have succeeded together through constructive cooperation in the Arab coalition, and with the help of friends through Operation Restore Hope in Yemen, to abort regional projects that sought to sow chaos, destruction and strife in the region."

Sheikh Mohamed said that the international community, led by the United States, must realise that the security and stability of the Arabian Gulf is closely linked to global security. Hence, setting up a transparent and clear vision that serves all parties to achieve peace, stability and development "is a vital requirement."

He pointed out that the unprecedented historic summit represented a genuine addition to the march of the GCC-US relations, and reflected keenness to strengthen the strategic partnership between the GCC states and the US.

Sheikh Mohamed said that the talks provided an opportunity to exchange opinions and views through deep consultations on security challenges and threats in the Gulf region.

He stressed the GCC's position on the need to keep the Arabian Gulf region, given its strategic importance, safe from any dangers or potential security threats in case the final nuclear agreement with Iran does not include "clear standards and commitments in terms of availability of legal guarantees and international commitments sufficient to curb the nuclear ambitions of Iran in the region and its regional hegemony, as well as measures to prevent the proliferation of nuclear arms."

He expressed confidence that the US administration would understand the GCC states and their peoples' legitimate concerns about "these potential strategic risks, especially in light of the turmoil, sectarian conflict and the spread of terrorist groups and their affiliated organisations."

Over the years, there have been a number of mutual visits between officials of the UAE and the US within the framework of continuous coordination between the two countries on various issues, including the visit of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan to the US in 1998 when he was the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, and 10 years later, when former US President, George W. Bush, paid a visit to the UAE as part of his last tour of the region before the end of his term in office.

This visit was very important as it was the first visit of a US President to the UAE since its establishment in 1971. During the visit, former President Bush delivered a lecture at the Emirates Centre for strategic Studies and Research, ECSSR.

The visit was a significant milestone in the overall development of UAE-US relations, which have grown significantly in recent years.

In a related context, the UAE has welcomed a number of key US officials, including Dick Cheney, the former Vice President of the United States, as part of a tour that took him to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan.

H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has met with successive US Secretaries of State during the terms of former US President George W. Bush and current US President Barack Obama.

A growing number of US Secretaries of State for Defence, Economy, Trade and other departments have visited the UAE in the framework of continuous coordination between the two countries in various bilateral, regional and international issues.

The strong relations between the United Arab Emirates and the United States of America are founded on a number of principles that sustain them, the most prominent of which is legacy.

Relations between the two countries date back to 1971 when the United States became the third country to establish diplomatic ties with the UAE. Its embassy in Abu Dhabi was opened in 1974 and since then, bilateral relations have been going from strength to strength in political, security, economic, commercial and military fields.

The UAE has a special importance in the US strategy for the Middle East, because of the pivotal role it plays in the region's security and stability. The United States also looks to the UAE as a shining example of development, prosperity and stability.

Equally, the UAE, like its fellow GCC countries, looks to the United States as a strategic ally and a key partner for regional security and stability.

Mutual interests were evident in security and military cooperation in six military operations, including the first Gulf War in 1991, Kosovo in the late nineteen nineties, Afghanistan in 2003 and the current operations against Daesh, which began in 2014.

The two countries also enjoy robust relations in the economic, aviation and academic fields.

The two UAE and US have adopted identical views regarding several international issues, such as the crisis in Syria, the war against Daesh, and the crisis in Yemen. This was evident in the joint statement issued at the end of the visit recently made by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, to the United States.

Security is also another area for strong cooperation between the UAE and the USA. Both countries share a unified stance against extremism and terrorism. The UAE is a key player in the US-led international coalition against Daesh and this was discussed during the officials talks Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed held with the US President Barack Obama.

The two sides discussed the air strikes carried out by the international coalition against Daesh and the need for the international community and coalition to continue their commitment and counter terrorist organisations to prevent them from spreading, so as to maintain the world's security and stability.

Both sides underscored the importance of achieving security, stability and peace, promoting the principles of tolerance and peaceful coexistence in the region and the world, and dismissing extremism, fanaticism, violence and terrorism.

The UAE's active participation in the international coalition against terrorism in 2014 came through its membership of the Global Counter-terrorism Forum and after the UN Security Council session, presided over by the US President Barrack Obama, to discuss the issue of foreign fighters within Daesh.

The UAE and the United States also maintain a strong military cooperation, especially after the 2nd Gulf War and the liberation of Kuwait in 1991.

The UAE has an exceptional track record in joining peacekeeping missions with the United States. In 1999, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan ordered intervention to protect Muslims in Kosovo. This was followed by a mission in Afghanistan in 2006 to provide protection to humanitarian projects undertaken there. The UAE forces also helped in distribution of relief materials and in mine-clearance operations around the capital, Kabul.

Economic and commercial relations between the two countries are witnessing steady growth. According to a recent report by the US-UAE Business Council, American exports and direct investments in the UAE have risen significantly. Trade exchange between the UAE and the US stood at US$24.9 billion (AED91.46 billion) in 2014. The UAE is the largest market for US exports to the Middle East. UAE investments in the US are around US$21 billion, while the country hosts over 1,000 US companies.

Recently, the UAE and the US stepped up their cooperation in peaceful nuclear energy. In 2009, the two countries signed a bilateral agreement for peaceful nuclear cooperation that enhances international standards of nuclear non-proliferation, safety and security. The agreement establishes a required legal framework for commerce in civilian nuclear energy between the two countries.

The UAE has adopts an official Policy on the Evaluation and Potential Development of Peaceful Nuclear Energy. The policy is built on the most exacting standards of safety, transparency and security, making the UAE a role model for nuclear energy development worldwide. It emphasises six key principles: complete operational transparency, the highest standards of non-proliferation, the highest standards of safety and security, working directly with the IAEA and conforming to its standards, partnerships with responsible nations and appropriate experts and long-term sustainability.

Meanwhile, in March 2015, The US and the UAE agreed to work toward greater civil and national-security space cooperation. US State Department spokesman, Jeff Rathke, said that the two countries agreed on developing a strategic approach that would focus on building mutual confidence and understanding of space systems on which both countries rely for economic, environmental, security and social well-being.

The move came just months after the UAE announced it had entered the space race with a project to send an unmanned probe to Mars by 2021, for which a new UAE Space Agency was created to coordinate the country's growing space technology sector and to supervise the mission.

The probe will take nine months to make the more than 60m-km journey to Mars, and will mark out the UAE as one of only nine countries with space programmes to explore the Red Planet.

The project aims to develop Emirati human capital and boost the space technology industry as a sustainable driver of the UAE's increasingly diversified economy.

President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan said, "The UAE's purpose is to build Emirati technical and intellectual capabilities in the fields of aerospace and space exploration, and to enter the space industry to make use of space technology in a way that enhances the country's development plans."

Areas of future plans and collaboration between the US and the UAE may focus on the important uses of satellite-based data and value-added applications, such as land and sea resource management, space situational awareness, earth observation, climate-change research, meteorology, positioning, navigation and timing, satellite communications, early warning, Earth observation, space weather monitoring and opportunities for early discussions on new systems and future space-related missions.

On key regional issues, the UAE maintains its firm position on the Arab-Israeli conflict, explicitly urging the United States to pressure Israel into joining the peaceful settlement and to implement international agreements in the lead up to creation of an independent and liveable Palestinian state, based on the road map and the Arab peace initiative.

The visit of the vice president of the United States, Joe Biden, to the United Arab Emirates is yet another step in the journey to strengthen and sustain the deep-rooted ties of friendship and cooperation between the two countries and will certainly have a positive impact, not just on bilateral relations, but on the region as a whole.

Speaking on the imminent arrival of the US Vice President, US Ambassador to the UAE, Barbara Leaf, said, "The visit of Vice President Biden is a very important milestone in the US-UAE relationship. The visit will highlight the strength of our bilateral relationship with one of our closest regional partners. This visit will further advance our ties covering a wide range of political, economic and security issues. Of course the visit comes at a critical time for the region and we greatly value the views of the UAE leadership on these very important issues." – Emirates News Agency, WAM - http://www.wam.ae/en/news/emirates/1395292456138.html

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