Russia is a strategic partner for the UAE, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed said on Tuesday as he welcomed his Russian counterpart to Abu Dhabi.
Sheikh Abdullah and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov described their discussions as friendly and built on mutual trust.
“Sergey and I are very good friends who often compare notes not only on politics but on many other things and issues," Sheikh Abdullah said, adding the relationship went beyond diplomat speak.
He cited the strategic partnership agreement between both countries as a case in point as the UAE became the first country at the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) to sign such an accord with Russia.
The strategic partnership agreement signed in 2018 and the ties resulting from it are thanks to Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Mr Lavrov, Sheikh Abdullah said.
"Had it not been for these people, it would have been really difficult to develop such ties,” said Sheikh Abdullah, who has been in office since 2006.
Mr Lavrov told his counterpart it was high time both counties enhanced their co-operation at the economic, high-tech and security levels.
“We share common ground on a wide array of issues and value our strategic partnership,” said Mr Lavrov, who has served as Russia’s foreign minister since 2004.
Iran is holding much of the region’s attention and Mr Lavrov said Russia welcomes the US drive towards rejoining the 2015 nuclear accord with Tehran.
“There are growing voices that say more needs to be discussed, that Iran's missile programme needs to stop, that Iran’s regional activities need to stop. The Iran deal needs to be treated separately, we should not incorporate any other elements or concern no matter how grave they may be,” he said.
“We believe that the parties should tackle the Iranian issue in simultaneous steps.”
As Syria approaches 10 years of civil war, Sheikh Abdullah said it should return to the Arab fold, but the “Syrian regime and the Arab League should exert more efforts.”
He added that the main obstacle to co-ordination with Syria was the US Caesar Act, the latest round of American sanctions imposed on Damascus.
“It’s extremely difficult to co-operate with Syria in some issues because of this Act, not just at the state level but for the private sector as well. We expressed our opinion frankly to the US,” said Sheikh Abdullah.
Syria has already been under US and European Union sanctions that have frozen the assets of the state and hundreds of companies and individuals. Washington already bans export and investment to Syria by Americans, as well as transactions involving oil and hydrocarbon products.
But the new sanctions can freeze the assets of anyone dealing with Syria, regardless of nationality, and cover many more sectors. It also targets those dealing with entities from Russia and Iran, Assad’s main backers.
Syrian authorities blame Western sanctions for widespread hardship among ordinary residents, where the currency’s free fall collapse.
At the news conference, the Russian foreign minister also said that Moscow hoped the UAE would use the Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccines as part of its national campaign.
They also touched on recent space co-operation, the UAE's mission to Mars and bilateral trade.
The two men also discussed regional issues, with Mr Lavrov saying Russia was standing by to work with the UAE to help solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.