The president of the United Arab Emirates has met with Vladimir Putin in Russia, a rare international visit to the country waging war on Ukraine.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan travelled to St Petersburg, Putin’s home city, and discussed the conflict while calling for stronger diplomatic ties on the sidelines of an economic forum.
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“I am pleased to be here today with you, your excellency, and we wish to build on this relationship, and we put our trust in you to do so,” Mohammed told Putin.
The UAE is among the few countries trying to maintain a publicly neutral stance towards Russia, contrary to much of the Western world which has imposed sanctions and condemned the Kremlin chief for ordering the Ukraine invasion in early 2022.
In carefully worded comments, Mohammed said the UAE wants to help facilitate peace and is in favour of “de-escalation” and a “political solution”, according to the UAE state news agency WAM.
“The UAE continues to support all efforts aimed at reaching a political solution through dialogue & diplomacy – towards global peace & stability,” he tweeted after the meeting.
Today I met with President Putin in St. Petersburg to discuss bilateral relations between the UAE & Russia, & the situation in Ukraine. The UAE continues to support all efforts aimed at reaching a political solution through dialogue & diplomacy – towards global peace & stability. pic.twitter.com/LSPG50HRXV
— محمد بن زايد (@MohamedBinZayed) June 16, 2023
Putin thanked Russia’s “very good partner” for its role in aiding prisoner swaps.
The UAE has tried to avoid publicly taking sides in the war, saying it wants to prevent further violence and encourage diplomatic action instead.
Abu Dhabi has not joined Western sanctions on Russia and is one of the few states that maintains direct flights to Moscow.
Russian billionaires evading sanctions have also found a safe haven in the UAE.
Russian oligarchs have been counting on the oil-rich nation to keep their bank accounts unfrozen and their assets in their own hands.
The Gulf country has long been a United States ally, but its stance on the crisis has indicated an attempt to balance relations under a new world order in which Moscow and Beijing are equally important, analysts said.
The two countries have also cooperated as members of the OPEC+ oil alliance.
Additionally, a November 2020 report issued by the US Department of Defense’s inspector general for counterterrorism operations in Africa found that the UAE was suspected of being a significant source of financing for Russia’s Wagner mercenary group in Libya. The UAE denied the claim.