The Petersburg Konstantynovsky Palace, also known as the Palace of Congresses, was the setting on Tuesday for the first historic visit by the President of the United Arab Emirates, Mohammed bin Zayed, to Russia since he became the country's leader on 14 May.
"This is a visit that comes at a very important moment in the face of the security tension the world is experiencing," explained Timur Dowidar, an international analyst and Russian economic consultant, to Al-Ain News. According to Dowidar, the UAE's significant regional weight in the Gulf, as well as its good relations with the Kremlin - with whom it has a strategic partnership agreement - could be key issues for Abu Dhabi's mediation in the current diplomatic, war and energy crisis facing the international community.
Today I arrived in St. Petersburg and met with President Vladimir Putin. We discussed several issues of mutual concern, including the Ukraine crisis, and the importance of engaging in dialogue to reduce tensions and arrive at a diplomatic solution. pic.twitter.com/uOgGAxDP6x— محمد بن زايد (@MohamedBinZayed) October 11, 2022
"Over the 50 years of our diplomatic relations, our contacts have developed progressively, only increasingly. Now, despite the complexity of international relations in the world, the ties between Russia and the UAE are a key factor in the stability of the region and the world as a whole," were the words of President Putin, as the official transcript of the meeting was posted on the Kremlin's website. "I know of your [...] desire to contribute to the solution of all problems, including the crisis in Ukraine. I would like to point out that this is a significant factor that makes it possible to use your influence to move towards a settlement of the situation," he added.
The Emirati Foreign Ministry made public its intentions on Monday, when it spoke of its intention to "achieve positive results for military de-escalation [in Ukraine], the reduction of humanitarian repercussions and the achievement of a political agreement to reach peace".
In this context, Vladimir Putin promised his Arab counterpart to keep him abreast of the situation at the Zaporiyia nuclear power plant - the largest in Europe, in the hands of the Moscow army since last March - as well as the negotiations with the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, with whom he also met this afternoon in St. Petersburg.
However, this new sign of good relations between Abu Dhabi and Moscow, less than a week after OPEC+ announced a significant cut in global oil production, could represent an additional reason for the estrangement between the Gulf state and Washington. Relations between the two countries were already strained following the oil group's decision.
In this respect, the Russian president stated during the meeting with Mohammed bin Zayed that OPEC+'s actions are aimed at "balancing supply and demand", and that they only aim to "create stability in world energy markets".
Since the United Arab Emirates came into being as a nation-state in the Gulf in 1971, relations between Abu Dhabi and Moscow have grown steadily through the establishment of diplomatic missions and the opening of embassies in both territories. The Emirati embassy in Moscow was officially opened in 1987, while the Russian Consulate General did not open its doors in Dubai until 2002.
However, the past 10 years have allowed the UAE and Russia to significantly boost relations between the two countries. Since 2012, the leaders of Abu Dhabi and Moscow have met face-to-face nine times. Ten, if one includes the current summit between Bin Zayed and Putin. And although each meeting has served to add a new component to mutual cooperation, 2018 is undoubtedly a date marked on the calendar of Russian-Emirati relations.
In June 2018, Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan - the current president, and 'de facto' ruler since his brother Khalifa bin Zayed suffered a stroke in 2014 - and Vladimir Putin affixed their signatures to a strategic partnership agreement in the political, trade, economic, security, cultural, humanitarian, scientific, technological and tourism fields.
"I would like to underline a number of points that are very important for our relations. Despite the fact that we have not seen each other for the last three years [the last meeting between the two leaders took place in 2019, before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic] we have achieved a lot: we have increased our trade turnover from 2.5 billion to 5 billion [dollars], and we have managed to increase about half a million tourists from Russia," Mohamed bin Zayed celebrated before Vladimir Putin.
Moreover, this summit represents the third round of direct talks between the two leaders, following calls in March and May this year when they discussed bilateral relations, the energy dossier and other regional and international issues on 1 March, and when Putin offered his condolences and sympathies to the newly appointed Emirati president on 17 May. These signs of good relations were complemented by the bilateral meeting between the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahayan, and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, in New York, on the sidelines of the 77th session of the UN General Assembly; and the Russian trade mission to the Emirate of Sharjah, in the framework of the 'Sharjah-Russia Business Forum'.