A week after the United Arab Emirates abstained from UN votes on Ukraine, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with his UAE counterpart and “discussed with him cooperation to advance peace and security at the UN Security Council (UNSC)”.
The US State Department said in a statement that in his call to Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Tuesday evening, Secretary Blinken “reiterated the value of close coordination on Ukraine and the importance of building a strong international response to support Ukrainian democracy and sovereignty following Russia’s premeditated, unprovoked and unlawful invasion”.
The Secretary also “underscored the US commitment to help the UAE bolster its strong defensive capabilities against threats from Yemen and elsewhere in the region”, the statement added.
The UAE is one of the 10 non-permanent members of the Security Council and is also presiding the council for the current month.
The UAE’s term expires in 2023, which means that it will remain in the council for most of the debates on Ukraine. On Feb. 25, the UAE joined China and India in abstaining from a UNSC vote on a US-backed resolution that condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Other eleven of the 15-member council voted in favour of the text.
On March 2, the UAE also abstained from voting on another US-backed resolution in the UN General Assembly, which demanded that Russia immediately end its military operations in Ukraine. A total of 141 countries voted in favour of the resolution, but the UAE, India, Pakistan and China were among 35 who abstained.
UAE’s abstentions raised eyebrows in Western capitals — Washington, London and Paris – as they consider the Emirates as one of their closest Arab partners.
On March 5, The Financial Action Task Force released its annual report and added the UAE to a gray list of countries that needed increased monitoring. Pakistan is already on the list. But diplomatic observers in Washington point out that relations between the UAE and its Western allies had already started to show signs of tensions even before the UN votes.
The emirates felt that the US had not done enough to protect it from Houthi UAV and missile attacks. Recently, the Gulf state had also engaged in strategic diversification, building up ties to China, India and Russia.
Recently, the UAE also indicated that it was not comfortable with the US pressure to reduce relations with China.
In abstaining from votes on Ukraine, the UAE was apparently also returning a favour. Recently, Russia abstained from voting on a resolution against Houthi rebels in Yemen but allowed it to pass by not vetoing it.
On Monday, another important resolution on Yemen passed with Russian support, suggesting that Moscow reciprocated Abu Dhabi’s abstention.
Yet, the US remains the emirates’ main security partner, providing the much-needed political and military support to it.
So, the UAE also has taken some steps to please Washington. On Monday, it called off its foreign minister’s previously scheduled visit to Moscow.