UAE minister wants strategic partnerships

This past week Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis led a large Greek business delegation on a two-day visit to the United Arab Emirates, which ended with the signing of a memorandum of cooperation between the Association of Exporters of Northern Greece and the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry. In this interview with Kathimerini during Bakoyannis’s visit, UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan referred to prospects for further bilateral cooperation, Iraq, Kosovo (where the UAE had troops in in the peacekeeping force for two years) and the growth of Greek business interests in the UAE. Allow me to start by asking about the most critical issue facing the international community: the Iraqi question. It is widely believed that the international community’s efforts to resolve the issue have hit a snag. However, any solution must stop the blood-letting and maintain stability, security and peace. In your opinion, what steps need to be taken to reach a lasting peace in the region? We in the United Arab Emirates are very keen to see this complex issue resolved once and for all. We reiterate our support for the efforts aimed at enabling Iraq to regain its security and to strengthen its national unity. We call on all Iraqis, regardless of their affiliations, to actively participate in building a new Iraq. As a way out of the current crisis, it is necessary to arrive at a comprehensive political formula that is agreed on by all Iraqi parties and groups. It is essential in this regard that the pledge made by the Iraqi government to review and amend the constitution be implemented. We strongly believe that maintaining security in Iraq will reflect positively on the region as a whole. In our view, all parties must be involved in the plan to strengthen security. There is also a need to disarm all militias and restrict weapons only to the official security forces, so as to stop violence and chaos, and to resume the political process with the objective of repairing Iraq’s political, economic and social fabric. At the same time, we believe that there is a pressing need to restructure the Iraqi security forces, to encourage the different sects, especially the Sunnis, to participate actively in the political process and to resort to dialogue for Iraq’s security, stability and territorial integrity. It is imperative that all of Iraq’s neighbors should refrain from interfering in its affairs and that all parties should deal only with the central government to help the Iraqi government and people. The international community should also initiate positive and active steps to help Iraq and its people maintain security and stability. What are the major stumbling blocks hindering efforts we should be making to build a better and more secure and stable world for us and for our children? We in the UAE are fortunate to have a harmonious political and coherent social fabric. In accordance with our own experience, we always stress the importance of coexistence between nations, cultures and civilizations, and of the implementation of the values of tolerance and mutual respect, regardless of religion, culture or race. We are eager to promote these values. At the same time, we completely reject the views of those who promote views of exclusion and intolerance, for whatever reasons. We believe, in contrast, in a world in which the principles of human coexistence in an atmosphere of mutual understanding can prevail, governed by true religious and moral values. We think that the best guarantee for a promising future for our children and for future generations is to work together to build a world that is based on humanitarian principles, the supremacy of law, justice and tolerance. Do you think the EU and the UN have so far played a satisfactory role, or do you think more effort is needed before international endeavors can prove efficient? We respect the EU and the UN for their faithful efforts to bring about more socioeconomic development and preserve peace and security in the Gulf region, Middle East and the world at large. However, we do believe that more steps need to be taken to promote the values of peace and justice. Occasionally, we get alarmed by the failure of the world community to achieve a just settlement for various issues around the world, particularly in Palestine, and in implementing proper and legitimate solutions in areas of conflict and tension around the world. We are also concerned at the failure of the world community to solve the problems of socioeconomic development in developing countries and eliminating poverty, disease and unemployment in these countries. Let me rephrase the question in this way: As a neighbor that has an inside view about the Gulf region, what is your advice to those of us in Europe and the West so that we can play a more effective role? Our main desire in the UAE is to see constructive cooperation based on mutual respect and mutual benefits. We and the West are bound by age-old relations. Today, we can see constructive development in the establishment of strategic partnerships and sustainable cultural relations. We look for politicians and intellectuals in Europe and the West to pursue their mission of building more bridges between the East and the West, so as to eliminate any tensions that formerly existed. On the bilateral level, how do you see the prospects for UAE-Greek relations? Where do you see the areas of emphasis in order to boost bilateral ties? There has been remarkable progress in bilateral relations, both political and economic, between the UAE and Greece. We constantly consult each other on ways of handling the crises in the region. We will continue to work together to consolidate our cooperation in all fields, including regional and international issues. In this context, we should refer to the UAE’s participation in the international peacekeeping force in Kosovo. Our force spent more than two years in Kosovo during which time they played an important role in consolidating peace and stability and in helping civilians who had suffered from the conflict. Our objective there was to contribute to the re-establishment of peace and security for all of the people of Kosovo, and we believe that the role played by our forces in the peacekeeping operations was a practical testament to the UAE’s policy of seeking to consolidate peace and security in all parts of the world. On the economic level, the presence of Greek companies in the UAE is growing steadily. There are now over 22 Greek construction companies in the UAE. And Dubai alone hosts over 75 Greek trading companies. There are also many Greek shipping companies, of course, who make extensive use of our ports. The rhythm of reciprocal visits of trade delegations and participation in trade fairs is rising. The UAE is a major trade partner of Greece.