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UAE says ties with Russia a ‘calculated risk’ in increasingly polarized world

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Ilya Pitalev/Sputnik/Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin and United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan shake hands during their meeting at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Friday.

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Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
CNN

Russia’s biggest economic forum, shunned by the West after invading Ukraine, had a last-minute high-profile guest on Friday – the United Arab Emirates President Mohamed bin Zayed.

During his working visit to Russia, the UAE President briefly toured the country’s pavilion at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF).

Until Friday morning, most of the foreign officials listed as in attendance were mainly minister-level officials representing countries that played a neutral role in Russia’s war against Ukraine.

Sheikh Mohammed told Putin: “It is a great pleasure for me to be here today with Your Excellency, we want to strengthen this relationship and we trust that you will do so.”

held at city ​​where putin was born And growing experience, SPIEF used to be one of the main international summits in Russia.However, the event has been without Western participation since the Ukraine war, and a high profile appearance is risky angered america Europe is determined to isolate Russia on the international stage.

For the UAE, it was a “calculated risk” it was willing to take as part of the Gulf state’s policy of de-escalation and dialogue An increasingly polarized worlda senior UAE official told CNN in exclusive comments on Thursday.

“This polarization must be broken,” said Anwar Gargash, the UAE president’s diplomatic adviser.

“[Sheikh Mohamed] Having met a lot of Western leaders, it was also important for him to hear from President Putin, and he was also able to support the collective efforts of the international community to move beyond the current polarization,” Gargash said.

“We’re trying to hear from all sides,” Gargash said. He described the UAE president’s visit to Russia as part of that policy. “Aggressively calculated risk” of ensuring channels with Putin remain open.

In the televised meeting, Putin thanked Sheikh Mohammad for his efforts to “resolve humanitarian issues in the course of events in Ukraine related to the exchange of detainees.”

The UAE’s state-run WAM news agency said Sheikh Mohammed spoke with Putin about accelerating efforts to “mitigate the humanitarian impact of the crisis and support the prisoner exchange initiative on both sides”.

Instead of taking “the conventional view of a crisis that’s going to hit everybody … we really have to think about positive differences,” Gargash said.

In December, UAE brokered release of U.S. basketball player britney greener In exchange for Russian arms dealer Victor Bout.

A senior UAE official told CNN in December that a meeting between Sheikh Mohammed and Putin in October was partly responsible for Griner’s release.

Dina Esfandiary, senior adviser for the Middle East and North Africa at Crisis Group, said the UAE uses mediation to build influence globally.

“Given its ties to Russia and its dialogue with the United States, it is well positioned to do so,” she told CNN.

A year after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Gulf state’s balancing act showcases its broader policy of cautious neutrality across the Middle East, as well as U.S. Unable to shake its Middle Eastern allies Join the Western camp against its rivals.

The UAE hosts 5,000 U.S. troops at the Al Dhafra air base outside its capital, Abu Dhabi. It has developed a close relationship with Israel over the past three years, becoming one of its closest allies in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, its bilateral trade with Russia is up 68% to $9 billion in 2022, the bulk of which is Russian exports to the UAE. That still pales in comparison to its largest trading partner, China ($72 billion in non-oil trade alone) or even the US ($23 billion in 2021).

The UAE also continues to maintain open lines of communication with Iran, which is Expand business ties with China And repaired the tense relationship with Turkey.

But the UAE’s policy toward Russia has drawn warnings from the United States that individuals and institutions that allow Russia to evade sanctions risk losing access to G7 markets.

The UAE was the “Guest of Honor” country at this year’s SPIEF, with the four-day event represented by the ruler of one of the seven emirates that make up the Arab Federation, as well as the UAE’s Minister of Economy, Abdullah bin Touk Al Mali.

Esfandiary said the UAE might “see what it can get away with before going all out with Russia.”

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