Sheikh Mohammed’s offer to Israel: make peace with Palestinians and we will trade

In a rare and wide-ranging interview, the Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai has shared his views on issues from the Syrian civil war to the Palestinian peace process.

Sheikh Mohammed speaks to Jon Sopel of the BBC at Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum House, the historic Al Maktoum family home in Dubai.  BBC News / Getty Images
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DUBAI // Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid has offered a rare insight into his views on crucial global, regional and domestic issues in his first major interview in more than two years.

The Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai spoke at length to the BBC on the Syrian civil war, political progress in Egypt, the Palestinian peace process and human rights and the legal system in the UAE.

Sheikh Mohammed said Bashar Al Assad had no future as president of Syria. "If you kill your people you can't stay … eventually he will go," he said.

Turning to domestic issues, the Prime Minister said: “We have a law, like when we cracked on the Muslim Brotherhood, because if they want to live and stay and work, they are OK, if they want to go extremes, we have a law for that.”

Sheikh Mohammed said the UAE would establish normal diplomatic relations with Israel if the Israelis reached a peace deal with the Palestinians.

"We will do everything with Israel – we will trade with them and we will welcome them – but sign the peace process," he said.

The Prime Minister said he believed Iranian leaders were telling the truth when they said Tehran’s nuclear development programme was for solely peaceful and civilian purposes, and he had discussed the issue with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad when he was president of Iran.

“I talked to Ahmadinejad and he said, ‘If I send a rocket to Israel, how many Palestinians will I kill? And then the US and Europe will destroy my cities. I’m not crazy to go for that. It’s a weapon of the past’.”

Sheikh Mohammed said he looked forward to a time when the US-led economic sanctions against the Islamic republic were lifted.

The interview, Sheikh Mohammed’s first since he spoke to the American cable news channel CNN in December 2011, was broadcast yesterday on BBC World News.

The Prime Minister’s optimism on Iran was reflected in developments yesterday, with nuclear negotiations between Tehran officials and diplomats from six world powers now expected to resume as early as next month.

European Union states will begin relaxing oil sanctions next Monday, and Washington has agreed to unblock Iranian access to US$4.2 billion (Dh15bn) in oil revenues held abroad. The first instalment of just over Dh2bn is expected to be released on February 1.