Dr Anwar Gargash says the most pressing challenge is to build Arab states that are accountable to their people
As the world emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic, countries in the region must focus on collaborations and constructive solutions rather than engaging in extremism and confrontations, said Dr Anwar Gargash, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs.
In his keynote speech during the seventh Abu Dhabi Strategic Debate held by the Emirates Policy Centre, Dr Gargash underlined that only countries with “well-functioning state institutions” have been able to handle the pandemic and look after their people.
“Our most pressing challenge is to build Arab states that are accountable to their people and possess the capacity to respond efficiently to their needs,” he said. “Achieving effective governance hasn’t been more necessary.”
Dr Gargash noted that despite the “serious challenges” posed by the pandemic, the UAE continues to “innovate, break new grounds and prepare for the future”.
He said the UAE has not only initiated proactive measures to counter and contain the spread of the pandemic within the country but led the way in providing humanitarian aid to others, too. “We have provided medical supplies to a total of 118 countries — benefiting more than 1.5 million health workers around the world.”
The UAE didn’t take into account “wider political considerations” while helping the needy. “The UAE did not hesitate to provide aid to Iran when it needed it.”
Committed to multilateralism
Dr Gargash underlined that the world must pay attention on evolution towards a “new world order”.
“We will need to refocus our attention on long-standing challenges, some of which have been exacerbated by the crisis. As we do so, the UAE will be guided by its long-standing commitment to multi-literalism, anti-extremism, respect for national sovereignty, peaceful resolution of conflict, good governance and sustainable development.”
The world must unite in tackling challenges like economic and health crisis, climate change, terrorism, poverty and armed conflicts.
“The pandemic highlighted that we are one international community and we need to work together to tackle common challenges. It is the only effective way of addressing these challenges.
“As a candidate for a non-permanent UN Security Council seat 2022-23, the UAE plans to use the opportunity to contribute to reinforcing confidence in the multilateral system.”
He acknowledged that the pandemic has left the countries in the region “fatigued” and “less well off than before”, which are reason enough to de-escalate conflicts.
“At a regional level, we must revitalise efforts to establish a new paradigm in cooperation and friendship. It is long overdue that countries in the region take an approach that promotes collaboration instead of confrontation, tolerance instead of extremism, and constructive pragmatism instead of ideology.”
Iran, Turkey interference unacceptable
Dr Gargash pointed out that Iran and Turkey weren’t respecting the national sovereignty of others in the region. While Iran continued to flow arms into Yemen, Turkey bolstered Islamist forces in Libya.
“Iran and Turkey have become increasingly aligned in the region in using interference as a tool to advance their expansionist agenda. Iranian-backed militias persist in undermining the security of various Arab countries. We cannot accept the destabilising nature of these policies in the Arab world.
“But we do not seek confrontation. The UAE always works with friends and allies, and encourages constructive dialogue and positive diplomatic engagement. Bringing an end to this interference will also make it easier to achieve the peaceful resolution of conflict in the region. The UAE remains committed to working towards political solutions to conflict,” he said.
“In Yemen, we will maintain our support for the Arab coalition in seeking a comprehensive cease-fire that leads the way towards a lasting political solution. We also strongly support the UN-led efforts in Libya.”
Separately, without naming any European country, Dr Gargash expressed concern over the recent extremist attacks happening there.
“We believe wholeheartedly that one must distinguish between the utilisation of Islam as a political tool and Islam as a universal religion. Islam must not be tainted by extremism and violence anywhere in the world. These extremist, transnational ideological movement do not represent Islam in any way.”
Israel deal for a new future
Dr Gargash said the peace deal with Israel was a bold step taken with an aim to shape a new and better future, and reduce polarisation in the region.
“Maintaining the status quo was clearly the easier option but it would not have offered better prospects for anyone. About 65 per cent of the Arab world is under the age of 35. This rising generation aspires to look beyond current conflicts and past grievances.”
Dr Gargash pointed out the UAE remains concerned about the plight of the Palestinians.
“The UAE continues to see it as imperative that a just and comprehensive peace is reached. But ultimately, the UAE recognises that the Palestinians and the Israelis are the ones who need to decide on the shape of that peace. The UAE stands ready to support that in any way we can.”
Dr Gargash congratulated US President-elect Joe Biden and Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris and expressed confidence that both counties will see regional opportunities and challenges through a “similar lens”.
“We know the President-elect well. We look forward to working with the new administration as we deepen the UAE-US relationship. It is a relationship built on common interest, shared values and close partnership. It crosses parties and spans administrations.”
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