The UAE’s political leadership operates within the broad foreign policy framework established by the founding President of the UAE Federation, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. This approach emphasises diplomacy, negotiation and a willingness to help those less fortunate. The UAE is mindful of its commitment to its neighbours and the international community with regard to regional peace, stability and security. To achieve these goals, it has purposefully promoted bridges, partnerships and dialogue, and has emphasised moderation, tolerance and respect for all peoples and religions. Relying on these tools of engagement has allowed the Government to pursue effective, balanced and wide-ranging ties with the international community in its role as a 'good global citizen'.
One of the central features of the UAE’s foreign policy has been the development of closer ties with its neighbours in the Arabian Peninsula through the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The UAE is also a member of the Arab League, the Arab Quartet, the Committee for the Arab Peace Initiative, Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Organisation of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC), Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), and many other regional, international and intergovernmental organisations, as well as, of course, the United Nations (UN) and its affiliated bodies.
The UAE continues to believe strongly in the goals and principles of the United Nations and a guiding principle of its foreign policy is a belief in the need for justice in international dealings between states, including the necessity of respecting the principle of non-interference in the sovereign affairs of other nations. The UAE promotes the peaceful resolution of disputes and backs international institutions in order to reinforce the rule of international law and facilitate the implementation of international conventions and treaties.
Regional security remains a top priority for the UAE: Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan has expressed his deep concern at events in the Arab region, encompassing sectarian strife, escalating terrorist attacks, and growing incitement to violence, which have led to a state of extreme polarisation, severely impacting stability and economic development.
He pointed out that extremism and terrorism in Bahrain are destroying a hitherto tolerant, non-sectarian society. The situation, he commented, has been aggravated by the politicisation and exploitation of religion to exclude and marginalise other spectrums of society.
Throughout the region, he said, growing despair and unemployment put young people at risk of falling into the clutches of violent extremism. This clearly affirms the paramount importance of the UAE's efforts to promote a culture of moderation and non-violence, opposing extremism in all its forms. And it is why the UAE proposed the establishment of the Hedayah Centre for Countering Violent Extremism under the framework of the United Nations. The UAE now hosts this important centre, which supports long-term, global efforts to prevent and counter terrorism.
However, despite recent mediation efforts and the eventual passing of a UN Security Council Resolution on humanitarian assistance, the UAE is deeply disappointed at the international community's inability to put an immediate end to the catastrophic humanitarian tragedy that the Syrian people are experiencing and which has so far claimed more than 100,000 lives and left millions injured and homeless in a flagrant violation of the principles of international law and in direct contravention of international humanitarian law. The UAE, for its part, continues to fund and participate in ongoing relief operations for the Syrian people in order to alleviate their suffering.
The UAE is also following with great interest the positive developments taking place in Egypt as it firmly believes that a stable and calm Egypt is the cornerstone of security and peace, not only in the Arab region but also for the whole world.
Since so many of these issues are interconnected, the UAE welcomes current efforts to revive peace talks between Israel and Palestine and is eager to contribute to a successful outcome of this initiative to achieve peace in this important part of the world. Many decades have passed and the Palestinian people look forward to realising their right to self determination and the establishment of an independent state within the borders that existed prior to the Israeli occupation of 1967, with Jerusalem as its capital, as confirmed by UN resolutions and in accordance with the Arab Peace Initiative.
Security and stability in the Gulf region remain a high priority in the UAE's balanced foreign policy, which derives its principles from the Charter of the United Nations. It is in this context that the UAE regrets the continued occupation of the UAE's three islands: Abu Musa, and Greater and Lesser Tunbs, and demands the restoration of the UAE's full sovereignty over these islands. The islands were forcibly occupied by Iran hours before the federation was formed on 2 December 1971. The UAE has consistently rejected the occupation, demanded the restoration of its full sovereignty and emphasised that 'all actions and measures taken by the occupying Iranian authorities are illegitimate, and are contrary to international law and to universal norms'.
Since 1971, Iran has been unwilling to seek a mutually agreeable solution. The UAE, in contrast, has called for 'a just settlement of this issue, either through direct negotiation or by referral to the International Court of Justice to settle this dispute in accordance with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations and the provisions of international law'.
In relation to Iran's nuclear programme, the UAE welcomes the progress made in the talks between Group 5+1 that seek to reach an inclusive agreement on this issue.
An example has been set by the UAE's own transparent and peaceful nuclear energy programme, which it commenced in 2009 to meet a growing demand for energy. The rules and regulations of the UAE programme are based upon the highest standards of safety and security, and upon the principles of non-proliferation.
The UAE has also opened the way for the production of renewable energy and development of clean energy technologies as a contribution towards protecting the planet from the negative effects of climate change. In this regard, the UAE has forged new avenues of collaboration with the UN, focused on achieving a legally binding climate agreement by 2015.
As a small ‘emerging regional and global player,’ it is clear that the UAE is dealing with challenges on many fronts and at different levels, largely in cooperation with a diversified group of friends and allies in the GCC, the Arab League, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, and the United Nations and its diverse organisations. UAE foreign policy also emphasises the strong relationship and mutual interests the country has with the United States and other countries, including the United Kingdom, France and South Korea and, although not a member of NATO, the UAE has chosen to join the coalition’s Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI).
Over the last five years, the UAE's diplomacy has witnessed a major shift towards relationships with new regions such as South America, Central America, Africa, Central Asia and the Pacific, where a number of embassies and consulates have been opened.
The UAE now has embassies in a total of 70 countries worldwide. Log on to Ministry of Foreign Affairs website for more details.
Looking to the future, the UAE leadership is committed to ensuring that its foreign policy will continue to be characterised by prudence, support, conciliation and consensus, as well as cooperation with international institutions. At the same time, it is ready defend the rights of the weak and vulnerable states.