ABU DHABI, 28th November, 2016 (WAM) — On the occasion of the 45th National Day celebrations of the United Arab Emirates, the Emirates News Agency, WAM, has issued a series of reports regarding the achievements of the state over the past year. In part two, we examine the impact of the UAE as a result of its foreign policy.
Since the Union was founded, the UAE political leadership has recognised that for the young and evolving Union to endure internal and external challenges to mature into a viable state, they needed a skillful, dynamic management of diplomatic relations with other countries.
With his wisdom and insight, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding father and first president, was able to set out firm principles for a moderate, balanced foreign policy which still guides the UAE’s energetic diplomacy today under the able leadership of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
The policy applies the principles of strengthening bonds of friendship and cooperation with all countries of the world on the tenets of justice, equality, dialogue, mutual respect and understanding and love for goodness for all without exception, good neighbourliness, respect of sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of other states. It also advocates settling all its disputes amicably as per UN Charter and international legitimacy and international laws and conventions, and the promotion of peace, stability, and security in regional and international arenas.
Under the stewardship of H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, UAE diplomacy has built a wide network of strategic relationships and partnerships with countries around the world that has direct influence on the national economy, strengthening its presence and position.
The UAE’s vital role in this regard is highly commended and appreciated by countries all over the world. It is seen both regionally and globally as an example of promoting the values of harmony and coexistence between different cultures and civilisations.
The UAE recognises that the challenges arising throughout the region and the world are partly due to the absence of the culture of coexistence, the spread of extremism and violence. Therefore, the UAE calls, in various regional and international fora, for the need to develop strategies for enhancing constructive dialogue between cultures, respecting beliefs and religions and spreading the culture of peace in order to challenge the attempts to distort the values of religions and provoke religious hatred.
In a statement at the General Debate of the 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York last September, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed set out the UAE’s approach towards many pressing regional and international crises and challenges.
”In our region and beyond, several countries are facing multiple crises and conflicts that ignited after 2011. We have witnessed a number of Arab countries including Yemen, Libya, Iraq, Syria and Somalia that have descended into internal fighting. At the same time, the Palestinian people’s plight continues under the Israeli occupation without a just solution on the horizon that returns to the Palestinian people the rights that were stripped of them, to establish their state on June 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
His Highness noted that regional interference in Arab affairs, mainly perpetrated by Iran, the only country in the world with a constitution that explicitly calls for exporting its revolution, has aggravated conflicts in the region.
“The serious challenges facing our region and many other countries require us to reflect together on ways to address these crises and reach consensual, timely and effective solutions, without undermining the existing significant efforts made in this regard,” His Highness said.
”The reality is that prominent powers in these crises, whether regional or international sides, have settled for managing the crises that have struck our region without overcoming them. As a result, the dangers have been exacerbated, rendering these crises difficult to solve without doubled efforts and tremendous financial and human cost.” ”The plight and suffering of the Palestinian people is nearing its seventh decade and has contributed to the increased waves of violence and counter violence due to the sub-par management of crises without seeking serious solutions by major actors and prominent powers, including those responsible for this tragedy,” His Highness explained.
Similarly, Iraq has been suffering for more than a decade from sectarian acts and violence on an almost daily basis, in addition to the control of terrorist groups over a part of its territory, spreading fear and terror in the hearts of the Iraqi people and risking its regional integrity. “Moreover, the interference of Iran in its internal affairs has exacerbated the factors of division among its people. Yet, there is no comprehensive political solution that promotes consensus among the components of the Iraqi people, and puts an end to the marginalisation of whole sections of Iraqi society,” Sheikh Abdullah said.
On Libya, H.H. Sheikh Abdullah said that the UAE also welcomed the Skhirat Agreement reached by the concerned parties in Libya as well as the formation of the Government of National Accord. “We hope that it will lead to further commitment to Libyan constitution-building, and solidifies cooperation between the Presidential Council and the House of Representatives, which both represent legitimacy in Libya. We also look forward to a unified national position that protects Libya’s territorial soil and maintains the unity of its people.”
With regards to Syria, the minister said that the UAE sees no possibility of resolving the Syrian crisis through military force. “To date, this path has only intensified the suffering of the brotherly people of Syria and increased the flow of refugees to other countries. The situation is further complicated by the interference of Iran and its terrorist militias in Syria’s affairs. This has distorted the vision for Syria and derailed it from the existing path, which is based on internationally agreed terms, which constitute the only salvation from this horrific tragedy,” he said.
Speaking on the situation in Yemen, His Highness said there have been a number of initiatives, including an effective roadmap, presented by the legitimate government of Yemen in Kuwait, and at the quartet meeting held in Jeddah this past August, that could have saved the Yemeni people from their suffering. “We hope that these efforts result in a political solution if the intentions of these militias are sincere and if they live up to the standards of national interest and its responsibilities.”
In 2016, the UAE reiterated its unwavering position on rejection of the continued Iranian occupation of the three islands, Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa, which constitute an integral part of the United Arab Emirates’ territory.
The state demands restoration of full sovereignty over its three islands. It also stresses that all actions and measures carried out by the Iranian authorities are contrary to international law, norms and common values.
The international community, including the Arab League, GCC and OIC, also stressed its support for the UAE’s sovereignty over the three islands, territorial waters, airspace, continental shelf and the three Islands’ economic zone.
“The crises of our region should not distract us from our core national issue which is the sovereignty of the UAE over its three islands which are occupied by Iran against the provisions of international law and the Charter of the United Nations,” Sheikh Abdullah said.
“My country has called, and continues to call on, our neighbour Iran, to return the occupied islands to their rightful owners either voluntarily or through peaceful means, particularly through international justice or arbitration, in order to maintain friendly relations and good neighborliness in the Arabian Gulf region. We also affirm that my country will never give up its sovereign right over these islands, and this approach emphasises the UAE’s insistence on the principles of international law,’’ Sheikh Abdullah affirmed.
The UAE condemned the ‘Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act’, JASTA, that will allow the families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia’s government for damages.
“JASTA is contrary to general liability rules and the principle of sovereignty enjoyed by states. It represents a clear violation, given its negative repercussions and dangerous precedents,” said Sheikh Abdullah.
He stressed that the UAE is looking forward to US legislative authorities reviewing the law and not ratifying it in light of the serious consequences associated with implementing this law on the well-established international principles attached to sovereignty, which, he said, represents a cornerstone of international relations.
Sheikh Abdullah warned of the negative effects of the law on all countries, including the United States, and the possible impact of chaos in the context of international relations.
The UAE continued to lead as the ‘most powerful passport’ in the MENA region with visa-free access to 122 countries, according to Henley & Partners’ annual Visa Restrictions Index for 2016.
The Visa Restrictions Index provides a global ranking of 199 countries based on the freedom of travel for their citizens.
The UAE led the MENA region for the 2nd year in a row, increasing by two spots to 38, with visa-free access to 122 countries. This increase follows last year’s agreement with the EU which gave the UAE citizens visa-free travel to 36 countries, including the 26 Schengen area states, making the UAE the first Arab country to be granted a European visa waiver.
The UAE leadership strives to make the UAE the promise of a new Middle East, a safe haven of peace, stability, opportunity, moderation and tolerance in the most rapidly changing and challenging world.
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, partners, friends and allies.”