King Salman visit analysis: ‘UAE-Saudi ties as strong as they come’

As well as the recent creation of a joint council, political analysts say the visit of King Salman of Saudi Arabia to the UAE will help solidify ties between both countries.

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ABU DHABI // The visit by King Salman of Saudi Arabia will help to solidify ties between both countries, political analysts say.

The Saudi monarch arrived in Abu Dhabi yesterday for an official visit as part of a tour that will also include Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait.

“Emirati-Saudi ties are as strong and as important as they come for both sides,” said Sabahat Khan, senior analyst at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis in Dubai.

“The relationship is multi-faceted and built on solid foundations with their closely related customs, histories and deep social connections.

“The UAE and Saudi Arabia are GCC allies but their ties run deep and continue to evolve in light of their growing national capabilities and the need to confront shared challenges with a coordinated approach.”

Dr Albadr Al Shateri, politics professor at the National Defence College, said Saudi Arabia was unquestionably the “strategic depth” of the UAE.

“However, it was the foundation of the GCC in Abu Dhabi in 1981 that witnessed the height of the ties between the two countries and formally institutionalised the relationship,” Dr Al Shateri said.

“Today, the UAE and Saudi Arabia are perhaps the closest allies in the region. It is an alliance that was forged by common blood, sacrifice and destiny.

“King Salman’s visit to partake in the National Day celebrations is an expression of the deep ties between the two countries.” ​

Ties between the two nations predate their modern states.

Historically, the Al Qawasim of Ras Al Khaimah and Sharjah struck an alliance with the Saudi dynasty in the 19th century to fend off British encroachment in the Arabian Gulf.

In more recent history, the Saudis eventually came to recognise the UAE federation as the bulwark of its eastern flank against radicalism and a sinew of its regional power.

The UAE in turn saw Saudi Arabia as the eldest sister – a term coined by the first Minister of Foreign Affairs – and cooperated in myriad fields.

Dr Ibtisam Al Ketbi, president of the Emirates Policy Centre in Abu Dhabi, hoped both countries might discuss the situations in countries such as Iraq, Syria and Yemen, because these countries are facing critical problems in fighting terrorism.

The fact that it is the first time that King Salman visits the UAE as King of Saudi Arabia signifies the importance of his visit, said Dr Al Ketbi.

The UAE and Saudi Arabia have emerged as a reliable powers in the region, where they are playing major roles in many issues, she said.

“They might talk about developing more unity and allies and further strengthening these ties.”

Dr Al Ketbi said the countries’ interests would not be identical, but they could coordinate their interests to the benefit of both.

“I think Yemen issues and relations with Egypt will be on the top of discussion, as recently president of Egypt visited the Emirates,” she said.

“Saudi-Egypt relations, which have been exaggerated by the media, might be talked about as well as Iran.”

The UAE and Saudi Arabia are only two countries striving to settle disputes in the region, Dr Al Ketbi said.

After the surprise victory of Donald Trump in the United States presidential election, ways to handle affairs with the US might also be discussed.