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Foreign Policy

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 commitments 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, especially the United Nations and affiliated bodies, in its role as a 'good global citizen'.

Regional security and stability continue to be a top priority for the UAE as is evident throughout Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed's address to the 70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in which he outlined some of the challenges facing the Middle East today, particularly 'extremism, terrorism, interference in the internal affairs of States and non-respect for the sovereignty of States'.


In this context, Sheikh Abdullah said that the UAE is deeply concerned by the escalating tension and violence in the region resulting from the terrorist acts committed by elements deliberately aiming at destabilising the region and undermining its security. 'Since the Second World War, the world has not witnessed such an escalation in brutal and shocking terrorist crimes carried out by extremist organisations, most notably Daesh, Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Ansar-Allah, and other groups, who exploit religion for political purposes', he noted.


'The UAE condemns the brutal methods used by these groups and organisations in the name of Islam. They have no connection with the tolerant teachings of Islam, which calls for peaceful coexistence and acceptance of others.


'The brutality of these organisations has recently intensified in the region and includes destructive tactics aimed at controlling targetted groups, especially youth, who are brainwashed and incited through social media and remotely directed to perpetrate terrorist attacks, proving that the threat of these terrorist organisations transcends geographical boundaries and is a risk not only for our region but for all states and communities.


'After five years of conflict and chaos, the regional forces have joined efforts to help restore security and stability in the region and help affected countries to confront these threats and to protect their people. The UAE has played an effective role in these regional efforts and positively engaged in maintaining peace and stability through political, security, humanitarian and development mechanisms.


Sheikh Abdullah went on to say that the UAE's principled position to stand by the Government and the People of the Arab Republic of Egypt 'is based on our fim belief that the stability and prosperity of Egypt reinforces the stability of our region'. He remarked that 'the recent political and economic achievements of the Government of Egypt are major steps towards it recovery and positively assist the recovery and stability of the region and restore Egypt's pivotal and historic role in the region. . .'


Sheikh Abdullah pointed out that the UAE's participation in the Coalition supporting the legitimate government of Yemen isa direct response to the request by the President of Yemen to provide the necessary support to the government and the people of Yemen in confronting the coup by the Houthis, as well as combatting other terrorist organisations such as 'Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula' and Daesh, which have exploited the chaotic and unstable conditions in Yemen. The UAE seeks, with the international community, he said, to restore the political process in Yemen in accordance with agreed parameters, most importantly the GCC initiative and its implementation mechanism.


To achieve this goal, Sheikh Abdullah noted: 'it is important to ensure full compliance with Security Council Resolution 22:16, which was adopted after consultations with relevant states in the region.' 'This process', he said, 'underscores the importance of improving the working methods of the Security Council by involving affected States and regional organisations in accordance with Chapter VIII of the UN Charter, in the collective decision-making process of drafting resolutions. This will enhance the effectiveness of the Organisation and will contribute to significantly improving the implementation of UN resolutions and prevention of conflicts.' Sheikh Abdullah also stressed the UAE commitment to supporting humanitarian efforts in Yemen, pointing out that humanitarian assistance extended to Yemen since June 2015 had exceeded US$200 million.


Sheikh Abdullah expressed the UAE's deep concern regarding the ongoing tension and instability in Libya, noting that this presents a major threat to security and stability in the region. He stressed the need to lift the ban imposed on the elected Libyan Government's ability to fight Daesh and other terrorist organisations and to respond effectively to trans-boundary threats.


Of increasing concern also, he noted, is the inability of the international community to reach a political settlement to the Syrian crisis and put an end to the violence and systematic mass atrociities committed by the Syrian regime against its own people, resulting in the displacement of millions of Syrians and the destruction of property.


The crisis, Sheikh Abdullah remarked, has also created serious humanitarian consequences, which have affected neighbouring countries and led to a political and security vacuum exploited by terrorist organisations, especially Daesh and Al Nusra Front, which have spread their extremist ideas and nihilist agenda in the region.


'Therefore', he said, 'the Security Council must fulfil its principal mandate and reach a consensus on a settlement for the Syrian crisis to ensure a political transition and the formation of a new government, which encompasses all components of Syrian society. We also stress the importance of the international community continuing to deliver humanitarian aid to the Syrian people'. The UAE, for its part, has affirmed its humanitarian commitment to supporting the Syrian people having contributed more than US$530 million in humanitarian assistance since the beginning of the conflict.


The Syrian and Libyan crises and their associated shocking violence, Sheikh Abdullah continued, have taken a heavy human and political toll. 'Almost daily, we see the suffering of innocent people, especially women and children, in their mass exodus as they search for safe havens and safe livelihoods, and the heavy price paid by refugees who have lost their lives in tragic conditions. The barbaric acts of destruction committed by terrorist organisation against historical symbols and sites have also revealed the considerable loss caused to our human and cultural heritage.


'As it has done in Syria, Daesh has exploited the unstable conditions and sectarian practices to further hostilities and violence among Iraqi factions and destroy Iraq's historical and cultural heritage. The UAE continues to stand in solidarity with Iraq and supports international efforts aiming at combatting this terrorist organisation.


'We also support the efforts of the Iraqi government towards achieving peace and stability and ending sectarian practices, and stress in this context the importance of implementing reforms to ensure inclusiveness, fairness and equality for all segments and components of Iraqi society.


'For its part, the UAE will continue supporting humanitarian aid programmes to help the people affected by conflict, it has become evident that the salvation of our region lies in building inclusive nations free from any sectarian or religious affiliations used by parties for political purposes and led to chaos and bloodshed.


'The UAE is fully aware of the consequences of failing to take firm measures to prevent extremist and terrorist organisations from pursuing their destructive endeavours. The consequences of these failures have inspired radical groups globally, especially in the Horn of Africa, to use similar methods and to exploit instability in their countries to attract supporters and followers.'


In this context, the UAE commends the efforts of the Somali Federal Authorities and its Forces in countering Al-Shabaab Movement and its threats, urging them to continue taking the necessary measures to restore peace and stability and stressing the necessity of intensifying and unifying efforts to counteract the threats of these organisations wherever they are and the need to address the root causes of radical ideologies before they turn into violent extremism.


Support for regional and international efforts to counteract extremism and terrorism is a central tenet of UAE foreign policy, through cooperation and coordination with regional and international partners, including the international coalition against Daesh, and the Global Counterterrorism Forum.


The UAE also participated in establishing and hosting a number of international institutions countering extremism such as the Hedayah centre to help the international community in countering all forms of extremism.


The UAE also hosts the Muslim Council of Elders and the Global Forum for Promoting Peace in the Muslim Societies with a view to spreading a culture of tolerance and peace and promoting convergence between faiths.


Recently, the UAE launched in cooperation with the United States, the Sawab Centre with a view to countering the social media messaging of Daesh and to allow moderate voices to reach the millions of people who reject terrorist practices and the misleading conceptions promoted by Daesh and other terrorist groups.


Sheikh Abdullah stressed that the UAE believes that security and stability of the states of the region depend on the extent of their positive cooperation, which must take as its fundamental pillar respect for sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs.


In this regard, he reiterated the United Arab Emirates rejection of Iran's continued occupation of the UAE's three islands Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa, and demanded restoration of the UAE's full sovereignty over these islands. He also stressed that all actions and measures carried out by the Iranian authorities are contrary to international law, norms and common values. Sheikh Abdullah renewed the UAE's plea to the international community to urge Iran to respond to the sincere and peaceful exhortations of the UAE to reach a just settlement of this issue, either through serious direct negotiations between the two countries or by referring the issue to the International Court of Justice.


For its part, the UAE considers that the agreement on Iran's nuclear programme represents a real opportunity to open a new chapter in regional relations and calls on Iran to fulfill its obligations fully under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and its responsibilities under the NPT and relevant Security Council resolutions, especially Resolution No. 2231. 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.


Despite all the challenges outlined in his address to the UN GA, Sheikh Abdullah said that the Palestinian issue remains at the core of conflict in the region, and one of the main threats to its security and stability.  Moreover, he remarked, the feeling of injustice and frustration resulting from the continued Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and the flagrant human rights violation committed by the occupation forces, provide extremist groups with an opportunity to exploit serious humanitarian conditions and to spread their radical thinking and incite frustrated youth to implement their destructive agenda.


Further escalation of violence, especially Israeli violations against Al Aqsa Mosque, prompted President H.H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan to issue a statement calling on the international community to rescue the peace process and take appropriate actions to stop the viiolence by committing Israel to basic standards for serious negotiations based on the terms of reference of a two-state solution.


In addition to the military, political and ideological arena, the UAE is also working diligently to further economic and social development in the region and beyond, thereby removing the fertile ground for extremism. In the words of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai: 'Our region is home to more than 200 million young people. We have the opportunity to inspire them with hope and to direct their energies to improving their lives and the lives of those around them. If we fail, we will abandon them to emptiness, unemployment, and the malicious ideologies of terrorism. There is no power stronger than that of hope for a better life,'.

To date, the UAE's comprehensive development assistance has earned it the title of the world's most generous donor as a percentage of income. See section on Foreign Aid for more information on the UAE's extensive foreign aid programme.

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).


In recent 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, including in Havana, Cuba. Currently, the UAE's diplomatic relations extend to more than 187 countries and the state has 105 diplomatic missions around the world. Log on to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website for more details.


Significantly, the UAE and the EU signed a reciprocal bilateral short-stay visa waiver agreement in 2015 exempting UAE citizens from the necessity to apply for Schengen visas. This means that the UAE is the first Arab country to be granted free entry to the Schengen zone.


The UAE has opened the way for the production of renewable energy and development of clean energy technologies nationally and internationally as a contribution towards protecting the planet from the negative effects of climate change. Creation of an Energy and Climate Change Directorate at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs underlines the UAE's commintment to this agenda. Through the MOFA,, the UAE Government forged new avenues of international collaboration focussed on the successful conclusion to the UN climate conference (COP 21) in Paris at the end of 2015.


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 to defend the rights of the weak and vulnerable states.




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