UAE to play greater role in regional security, minister says

UAE Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash said he had concerns about Western powers’ disagreement over how to deal with Iran.
Thursday 26/07/2018
UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash speaks during a press conference in Dubai on June 18, 2018. (AFP)
UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash speaks during a press conference in Dubai on June 18, 2018. (AFP)

LONDON - The United Arab Emirates is prepared to increase its security presence across the region as it believes traditional Western allies like the United States and Britain cannot be relied upon, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said Thursday.

Filling the vacuum left by the administration of former US President Barack Obama, the UAE has broadened its influence by deploying troops and cash across the Middle East and Africa, where it has built up local armies and set up military bases.

“In this current international system, it is no longer ‘write a cheque and someone is going to come and secure the stability in the region.’ You have to do some of the burden-sharing,” Gargash said in a speech in London.

The UAE has been fighting the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels in Yemen for more than three years, and backed forces opposed to political Islam in Libya and elsewhere.

With its closest ally Saudi Arabia, the UAE has also been locked in a power struggle with their arch-rival Iran, who it accuses of driving instability in the region and beyond.

Gargash said he had concerns about Western powers’ disagreement over how to deal with Iran, and that he hoped “the current American effort to bring about a change in Iranian approach is successful.”

“We are worried a little bit about what is seen as a divergence of view between Europe and the United States over Iran,” Gargash said at the Policy Exchange think-tank event.

The UAE sees the more forceful approach towards Iran taken by the United States as a more effective means of curbing what it sees as Iran’s malign activity and development of ballistic missiles than European attempts to rescue a 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

In May, US President Donald Trump withdrew from the multinational agreement that lifted sanctions in exchange for curbs on Tehran’s nuclear programme, calling it a “horrible deal.”

Gargash also said the UAE was engaging in a mediation process with Somalia, whose coastline sits close to key shipping routes and across the water from Yemen, following a row over the seizure of several million dollars from a UAE civilian aircraft at Mogadishu airport.

“There are attempts currently to mediate between us and Somalia,” he said. “We’d like to continue to do our work, but we have made it very clear that we have been wronged with regards to how we were treated with the shipment of nine-point-something million dollars … we are asking for an apology for that.” 

(Arab Weekly staff and news agencies)