Gargash and Nusseibeh supercharged Arab diplomacy

Both officials will continue to help build a stronger UAE

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - February 09, 2021: HH Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces (L) and HH Sheikh Mohamed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President, Prime Minister of the UAE, Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Defence (R), presents a UAE Union Medal to HE Zaki Anwar Nusseibeh, UAE Minister of State (C), at Zabeel Palace.

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On Wednesday, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, announced important changes at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Described as "mini-shuffle", it nonetheless bids farewell from their long-standing portfolios to two of its biggest names, former minister of state for foreign affairs Dr Anwar Gargash and former minister of state Zaki Nusseibeh.

At the same time, the promotion of Sheikh Shakhbout bin Nahyan, the former UAE ambassador to Saudi Arabia and Khalifa Al Marar, previously assistant minister of political affairs, to Ministers of State was announced.

Dr Gargash and Mr Nusseibeh are both set to join the Presidential office as advisers on diplomatic and cultural affairs, respectively. Wishing them success in their new roles, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, said, "The UAE holds in high esteem its loyal sons. Long may your success continue." In recognition of the transformative achievements of Dr Gargash's time in his post over the past 13 years, the UAE's institution for envoys has been renamed the Anwar Gargash Diplomatic Academy.

Both men were also awarded the Order of the Union.

It is not easy to steer a nation safely and successfully through the diplomatic waters of the Middle East. Both men have done so, and strengthened their country in the process. It required striking an often elusive balance between long-term strategy and quick thinking. The UAE’s string of geopolitical achievements in recent years is a testament to the integrity with which Dr Gargash and Mr Nusseibeh sought peace and cultural progress.

FILE PHOTO: UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash is seen during preparatory meeting for the GCC, Arab and Islamic summits in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, May 29, 2019.  REUTERS/Waleed Ali/File Photo
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It is not easy to navigate a nation safely and successfully through the diplomatic waters of the Middle East

Dr Gargash, an art-collecting polymath with a PhD from the University of Cambridge, filled the demanding job of one of the country's busiest ministerial positions. This year, the UAE’s diplomatic corps with Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, and Dr Gargash’s stewardship helped to heal rifts within the Gulf, returning the region to one in which cultural ties and hopes for a prosperous future triumph over political division. Months earlier and further afield, the old orthodoxies of the Palestine-Israel peace process, an issue that has plagued the Middle East for years, were given new dynamism with the Abraham Accords, making progress more attainable than it has been for decades. A security pact with Greece last year also presented a united front in the Mediterranean. A considered approach in Yemen meant that the UAE was able to withdraw its troops from the country and help lay the foundation for an eventual diplomatic solution there.

It is also the stories of the men themselves, not just their achievements, that make their contribution notable.

Mr Nusseibeh, who was born and educated in Jerusalem, started his service to the nation by accompanying the country's Founding Father, Sheikh Zayed, even before unification in 1971. With Mr Nusseibeh’s guidance, the UAE has become a cultural powerhouse in the Middle East, and a centre for tolerance and understanding. His ability to help build a bridge between Sheikh Zayed’s hopes for this country into the modern world has been invaluable, and his record of service extends to his family, with his daughter, Ambassador Lana Nusseibeh, today representing the UAE at the UN.

The legacies of these men highlight the important, but often unseen, work that public servants do for a nation. The rewards for their work extend beyond the country’s borders, and will be remembered for a long time to come.