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, especially the United Nations and affiliated bodies, in its role as a 'good global citizen'.
Regional security continues to be a top priority for the UAE and it has been engaged in efforts to respond to the rising turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa region. Prominent among the issues is the continued escalation of violence in Syria and Iraq. In the former, conflict between the regime of Basher Al Assad and its opponents, including the terrorist organisations Da'esh and Jebhat al-Nusra, has led to an estimated death toll of over 200,000. Up to 3 million people are now believed to have fled to neighbouring countries, with an estimated 6.5 million more people internally displaced. In Iraq, advances by Da'esh in the centre and north of the country displaced hundreds of thousands of more people as the terrorist group embarked on an orgy of slaughter.
In September 2014, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement which said, in part, that the UAE 'expresses its deepest concerns and strongest condemnation of terror acts and criminal practices of violent extremists.' In particular, it condemned 'the atrocities of the so-called Da'esh, which aims to kill, terrorise, and displace civilians, ransack property, and demolish historic and religious sites.' The UAE, the statement noted, abhorred this indiscriminate violence and destruction, including mass executions, expulsions and the abduction and enslavement of innocent women and children, adding that these actions undermine regional and international stability and threaten universal humanitarian values, cultural heritage, and norms of tolerance, multiculturalism and religious diversity. 'The insidious ideologies' on which such terrorist groups as Da'esh and Al-Qaeda are based do not reflect the peaceful teachings of Islam, the Ministry said.
The UAE has joined over fifty other countries in the campaign to degrade and defeat Da'esh on the ground, with planes from the UAE air force flying dozens of sorties against Da'esh targets.
In his speech to the UN General Assembly in September, Foreign Minister H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan noted: 'The UAE has announced its full support for the international efforts to combat the terrorism of Da'esh, believing that such a war on terrorism will not lead to a marginalisation of Sunni Muslims, will not lead to a dismemberment of the components of the people of Iraq and will not lead to intervention by foreign powers with subversive agendas. 'The security of Iraq is an integral part of the region's security', he noted, adding that 'It is important for all of us to ensure its political and territorial unity.' Iraq urgently needed, he said, the adoption of a true and comprehensive national programme that rejects violence and includes all the elements of the Iraqi people, without exclusion or favouritism.
In a speech to the UN Security Council later in 2014, H.H. Sheikh Abdullah added:' I would like to stress in this forum as an Arab and Muslim that I categorically reject that the terrorist organisation 'Da'esh' should be described as " the Islamic State."' It is, he said, nothing more than a 'terrorist and criminal gang.'
As part of its contribution to the fight against terrorism, the UAE hosts the International Centre of Excellence against Violent Extremism (Hedayah) in Abu Dhabi, and in July 2014, the UAE established the 'Muslim Council of Elders' an independent, international body of scholars from Muslim countries, to promote the tolerance and values that lie at the core of the Islamic faith.
In November 2014, in further confirmation of the UAE's opposition to terrorism, the Cabinet announced a list of 85 organisations it considered to be practicing or promoting terrorist acts. Besides Da'esh and Hebhat al-Nusra, and the Boko Haram group in Nigeria, the list also included the international Muslim Brotherhood and all of its branches or affiliates, both within the Middle East and the rest of the Islamic world, as well as further afield. UAE banks were subsequently instructed that dealing with any of the organisations was henceforth banned, under the terms of legislation preventing the facilitation of any financing for terrorism.
The fight agains terrorism, however, is not confined to the military, political or ideological field. Nor can it be confined to one particular part of the globe. In a major newspaper article written in September 2014, H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister, and Ruler of Dubai, noted that: 'The global financial crisis taught the world how profoundly interdependent our economies have become. In today's crisis of extremism, we must recognise that we are just as interdependent for our security, as is clear in the current struggle to defeat Da'esh. 'We must acknowledge,' he said, 'that we cannot extinguish the fires of fanaticism by force alone. The world must unite behind a holistic drive to discredit the ideology that gives the extremists their power, and to restore hope and dignity to those whom they would recruit.' 'Da'esh certainly can – and will – be defeated,' he added. 'But military containment is only a partial solution. Lasting peace requires three bigger ingredients: winning the intellectual battle; upgrading weak governance; and grassroots human development.' Da'esh is a barbarous and brutal organisation, ' the Vice President wrote. 'It represent neither Islam nor humanity's most basic values. What we are fighting is not just a terrorist organisation, but the embodiment of a malicious ideology that must be defeated intellectually.' 'The destruction of terrorist groups is not enough to bring lasting peace. We must also strike at the root, to deprive their dangerous ideology of the power to rise again among people left vulnerable by an environment of hopelessness and desperation.' The solution, he said, has three components. The first is the need ' to counter malignant ideas with enlightened thinking, open minds and an attitude of tolerance and acceptance.' The second is support for efforts by government to create stable institutions and deliver real services to their peoples. 'When governments fail to address instability, legitimate grievances and persistent serious challenges, they create an ideal environment for hateful ideologies to incubate.' The third component, H.H. Sheikh Mohammed wrote, ' is to address urgently the black holes in human development that afflict many areas of the Middle East,' which he described as an international responsibility.
'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,' he concluded.
In this context, the UAE is supporting economic and social development 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.
The UAE is also keen to see a solution to the Israeli-Palestine conflict. 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.
In the meantime, the UAE is helping to fund reconstruction of the Gaza strip following recent Israeli aggression, which was strongly condemned by the UAE.
The UAE's balanced foreign policy derives its principles from the Charter of the United Nations and 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 supports the negotiations 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. Creation of an Energy and Climate Change Directorate at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs underlines the UAE's commintment to this agenda and 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).
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. The UAE now has embassies in over 70 countries worldwide. Log on to the 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 to defend the rights of the weak and vulnerable states.