UAE trade is a national security priority for US, says new envoy

Speaking at the Gulf Security Forum in Abu Dhabi, US ambassador John Rakolta said diplomacy is the best means of ensuring security ties

Brigadier General Miguel Castellanos, Deputy Director for Operations, U.S. Africa Command, speaking at UAE Security Forum 2019: Reshaping the Future of the Horn of Africa, at NYU AD.
(Photo Courtesy of AGSIW)

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Trade with the UAE is a key element in US national security, America’s new envoy in Abu Dhabi said on Thursday.

John Rakolta, the US Ambassador to the UAE who arrived in October, said during a Gulf Security Forum in Abu Dhabi that the UAE was one of his country’s biggest trade partners in the region.

Trade between the two nations was worth about $25 billion (Dh91.8bn), he said.

The UAE and US co-operate strongly in matters from defence to non-proliferation, trade, law enforcement, energy policy, and cultural exchange.

In terms of security ties, the American diplomat noted that several thousand US personnel are stationed in the UAE.

“Security is a top priority for the UAE government and diplomacy is the best way to maintain security interests,” Ambassador Rakolta said.

The two countries have worked together to promote peace and security and support economic growth in the region with a specific focus on the Horn of Africa.

As the Arab Gulf states have taken a more prominent role in the international community, especially the UAE and Saudi Arabia, their influence has expanded across the Middle East and Africa.

Both Abu Dhabi and Riyadh have provided a “win-win outcome” in the Horn of Africa, Abdul Mohammed, chief of staff and senior political advisor to the African Union said.

But, he added, they must help secure stability in states such as Sudan, Somalia and Djibouti to be able to enhance their influence.

"Africa is yearning for integration and there are two ways to integrate with the wider region," Mr Mohammad said. "One way is led by the market – the markets in Africa are too small, too fragmented they cannot play a leading role, so the only way to integrate is through infrastructure," he said.
Investment in infrastructure through China's Belt and Road project in the Horn of Africa is part of that, he said.
"The Gulf countries are also interested in this aspect, in particular, the UAE with the development of ports. This will facilitate integration and some form of sustaining development," Mr Mohammad said.

EU special representative for the Horn of Africa, Ambassador Alexander Rondos, pointed to the swift changes taking place in the Horn of Africa.

“A new generation is emerging in the Horn of Africa that is more educated, politically aware and connected than ever. And it is pushing for change,” he said.

Stability on both sides of Red Sea is needed to prevent terrorist attacks on regional and global trade, Douglas Silliman, the former US Ambassador to Iraq and president of the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington said.

“Nearly all Gulf states have placed a premium on security of the Red Sea,” Ambassador Silliman told the audience.

Rebels in Yemen’s ongoing civil war have on several occasions targeted international shipping and forced the closure of the straights of Bab Al Mandeb that separate eastern Yemen from Djibouti and Eritrea.

Ties between states in the Horn of Africa and the Gulf have been forged by history, religion and culture, he said.

“The geographical and historical links, the desire for trade and regional security, and the quest for food security all provide a solid bedrock for relations across the Red Sea,” Ambassador Silliman said.