UAE commits to wider support to Mauritania after visit by Ould Ghazouani

$2 billion in Emirati support has been allocated to finance development projects in Mauritania.
Sunday 09/02/2020
Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan (R) and Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani during an official reception at Qasr Al Watan, February 2. (UAE Ministry of Presidential Affairs)
Edging closer. Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan (R) and Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani during an official reception at Qasr Al Watan, February 2. (UAE Ministry of Presidential Affairs)

TUNIS - The Mauritanian government established a high committee, to be led by Prime Minister Ismail Ould Bedde Ould Cheikh Sidiya, to oversee investment projects and ties with the United Arab Emirates.

The Emirates extended $2 billion to finance development in the West African country after Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani’s visit to Abu Dhabi earlier this month. It was his first trip abroad since his election in June.

Ould Ghazouani met with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan and others while in the Arab Gulf country.

The Mauritanian cabinet issued a statement February 6 saying the development committee had been formed to “supervise the rapid and well-controlled implementation of the partnership and joint projects with the United Arab Emirates.”

The Mauritanian government expressed “the full gratitude on behalf of the Mauritanian people to the United Arab Emirates for the generous support it had extended to our country during the president’s visit and the value and importance of the investments that will expand the economic development of our country.”

Ould Ghazouani said: “The allocation of $2 billion by the United Arab Emirates to fund investment in Mauritania proves that the relations between the two countries reached their highest level.

“The leaders of both countries share the same positions and views regarding all Arab, regional and international issues.”

Mauritanian media compared the UAE allocation to assistance the country received from the United Arab Emirates 50 years ago when its first president, Mokhtar Ould Daddah, was seeking to build the country’s economy after independence.

UAE founding father Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan granted 40 million dirhams ($10.9 billion at the current rate) to Mauritania to help finance its first road stretching more than 1,200km. Sheikh Zayed visited Mauritania in 1970 to show support for economic and social developments in the country.

“The visit by Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan to Mauritania in the 1970s remains present in the memory of the Mauritanians present at this time and even in the memory of young people as their mothers and fathers told them about it. That visit played an important role in strengthening bilateral ties,” Ould Ghazouani said.

Supporters said Ould Ghazouani aims to make “a new start” in expanding the economic and social development with a strategy different from his predecessor, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz.

Ould Ghazouani is also overseeing a shift in Mauritania’s diplomacy from “good neighbourhood to brotherly complementarity” to further the country’s economic and strategic interests.

“The details of the huge welcome to the president during his visit to the United Arab Emirates and the demonstrations of joy and greetings to him suggested that the relations between the two states entered a new stage that can only be compared to the atmosphere of the incipient relations built by the late founders Sheikh Zayed and Ould Daddah,” said Mauritanian political writer Cheikh bin Salek.

Mauritania and the United Arab Emirates cooperate on farming, energy, security, culture and transport issues.

“We are determined to deepen this cooperation, God willing, as will be made clear during the work of the joint cooperation committee meeting in our country March 11-12,” said Ould Ghazouani.

Mauritania shares with United Arab Emirates a sober view about the “Arab spring” that caused conflicts and instability in some Arab countries and opened the way for foreign intervention in the region.

“The ‘Arab spring’ does not match the name. Some forces attempted and are attempting to fan conflicts and divisions in the Arab region,” said Ould Ghazouani. “The spring is a good season but if it were spring we will not be in the situation we are in as Arabs.”

“Mauritania faced the storm of the ‘Arab spring’ by working to strengthen our national unity, reinforce our social fabric, fighting poverty and expanding economic and social development while affirming the pillars of state of law and institutions,” Ould Ghazouani said.

Mauritania was the only country in the Maghreb to join the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt in severing ties with Qatar in 2017 over Doha’s suspected support for Islamic extremists and close ties with Iran.

Mauritania’s ties with Tehran were strained after Iran’s ambassador was summoned by the Mauritanian foreign minister to explain increased Shia proselytising activity at al-Mujina Mosque in Nouakchott.

Since the visit of Ould Abdel Aziz in 2010 to Iran, some 50,000 Mauritanians have converted from Sunni Islam to the Shia sect mainly as the result of charity and social assistance work, local media said.