UAE defends lavish welcome of Putin

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman welcomes Vladimir Putin in the capital Riyadh on Wednesday
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman welcomes Vladimir Putin in the capital Riyadh on Wednesday - AFP

The UAE has defended its lavish welcome for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court over his illegal war in Ukraine.

The oil-rich Gulf state said that Wednesday’s state visit would boost the chances of peace in both Ukraine and Israel through “communication and dialogue”.

But analysts said the pomp and circumstance of Putin’s visit, when he was greeted with an elaborate ceremony at the presidential palace, was a propaganda coup for the Russian leader.

One official said: “The UAE believes that high-level visits are important tools of diplomacy and communication, especially during difficult times.

“The UAE is committed to continuous efforts with its international partners in working to reduce escalation, to find prospects for a peaceful political solution, and it reiterates its position of calling for diplomacy and dialogue and respecting the rules and principles of international law.”

“As a member of the UN Security Council, the UAE will continue to play a role in trying to foster a political outcome for these conflicts, prioritising communication and dialogue.”

Jets fly through the sky as Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the incumbent president of United Arab Emirates, welcomes Vladimir Putin
Jets fly through the sky as Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the incumbent president of United Arab Emirates, welcomes Vladimir Putin - Anadolu

Putin was described by UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan as his “dear friend” when he was received at the opulent Qasr al-Watan palace by a guard of honour and a flypast trailing smoke in the colours of the Russian flag.

The 71-year-old autocrat is seeking to cement alliances in the Middle East after the West imposed punitive sanctions on Russia for its illegal invasion of Ukraine.

He visited Saudi Arabia for more talks on trade and oil after the UAE and welcomed Iran’s president in Moscow on Thursday. Iran is a backer of Hamas.

The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for the Russian president for the abduction of Ukrainian children, which means Putin cannot visit large parts of the world for fear of arrest.

The UAE, which is neutral over Ukraine,  has never signed the Hague court’s treaty. It has not imposed any sanctions, which has led to accusations it has softened the blow of Western measures against Russia.

Shortly after Putin touched down in the Middle East, the UK announced it was sanctioning four firms in the UAE accused of fueling Russia’s war in Ukraine by helping Russian oil exports circumvent Western punitive measures over the invasion.

At their meeting, the two leaders discussed the Israel-Hamas war and Ukraine. They were reported to have stressed the need for peace in Israel based on a two state solution.

‘Relations have reached unprecedented levels’

Sheikh Mohamed told Putin the UAE supported resolving conflicts through dialogue and diplomacy, which differs from the sanctions imposed by the West since the February 2022 invasion.

“Our relations have reached unprecedented levels,” Putin told Sheikh Mohamed.

The UAE is Russia’s largest trading partner in the Gulf, accounting for more than half (55 per cent) of all trade with the region. Russia has said the trade is worth nearly $10 billion.

Moscow supported the UAE joining the Brics group of nations, which the Gulf state will join with others including Saudi Arabia and Iran in January.

Russia, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are members of the OPEC+ group of oil producing nations.

“I discussed with President Vladimir Putin the ties between our two nations, and the importance of strengthening dialogue and co-operation to ensure stability and progress,” Sheikh Mohamed said after the meeting.

“The UAE will continue to support efforts aimed at enabling global growth, prosperity and development for all.”

Putin’s visit ‘bad news for the G7’

Kristine Berzina, of the German Marshall Fund of the United States think tank, said that Putin’s visit was “bad news for the G7, for Europeans and Ukrainians whose territory and security is under threat”.

Dubai was hosting the Cop28 climate change conference when Putin arrived in Abu Dhabi, she said.

“The Russian president’s spectacular arrival – accompanied by fighter jets - and warm greeting from the UAE president is a powerplay with the Cop as audience to Putin’s bold international return,” Ms Berzina said.

“Oil income is essential for Russia to continue its war effort. Keeping oil revenue up and strategizing on oil price with Arab partners will aid Russia’s reawakened imperialist mission.”

Ms Berzina said the West was not able to pressure Arab states to ostracise Putin because it needed the UAE and Saudi Arabia’s support to resolve the Israel-Hamas war.

“Putin is in the UAE because he can be, because he is welcomed,” she added.

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