Arab League to bolster its ties in the Pacific

The Arab League has endorsed a UAE initiative of holding a forum in Abu Dhabi to promote co-operation through trade and investment.

ABU DHABI // The Arab League has endorsed a UAE initiative to promote co-operation between Arab countries and Pacific island states. The decision was made by the Arab League Council ahead of a high-level ministerial conference yesterday. Tariq Haidan, the foreign minister's assistant for political affairs, told WAM, the state news agency, that holding a forum would help co-operation in trade and investment between the two blocs. He said the forum would be held in Abu Dhabi, but did not say when.

The Arab League plans to open a regional office in Fiji, one of the Pacific island countries. The group also includes Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Palau, Nauru, Vanuatu, Tonga, Tuvalu, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands. The UAE has provided funding for a US$50 million (Dh 184m) aid programme covering the 14 countries, which, as island nations, are especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change and often have small economies with rising populations and dwindling resources.

The project is intended to improve infrastructure and fisheries, as well as energy conservation programmes, education and social services. The development follows a meeting in June among members of the Arab League and the Pacific Small Islands Developing States organisation that explored potential avenues of co-operation. Leaders of the two blocs issued a statement at the time urging Iran to end its occupation of the islands of Abu Musa and the Tunbs through direct talks or international arbitration.

That meeting was held at the request of Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs, who toured a number of Pacific island states in February. Earlier, Reem al Hashimi, a UAE minister of state, visited the region during the UAE's campaign to gather support for setting up the headquarters of the International Renewable Energy Agency.