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The UAE’s curious relations with Pacific Islands 4, July 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in The Emirates.
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In a spectacularly random article in The National, Peter Hellyer discusses the UAE’s emerging relations with practically microscopic Pacific Islands thousands of miles from the Gulf.

Aside from setting up links with the Marshall Islands, Abu Dhabi sponsored a conference  recently attended by foreign ministers of 14 of these small island states under the aegis of the Pacific Small Islands Developing States group. This meeting followed on from the UAE Foreign Minister’s visit to the Pacific Islands in February.

The UAE pledged to contribute $50 million to a Pacific Islands Partnership Programme to invest across sectors, notably in the areas of renewable energy and education. Such a sum on money – given the tiny populations – will go a long way.

Heller offered two reasons for this initiative.

  • It followed logically from Sheikh Zayed’s stated vision of using the UAE’s largesse to help less fortunate countries around the world.
  • Both countries are threatened by climate change…

A couple of other reasons leap to mind too.

  • I would be surprised if some Emirati Sheikh did not buy an atoll soon.
  • As Israel has discovered, having support in such Island states can be useful. They have, after all, a vote in the UN. Who knows when such good will when come in useful?

As small island-states, the Pacific islands can comprehend – in a way that other, larger, countries cannot – how important our three islands of Abu Musa and the Tunbs are to us. The Marshall Islands, still suffering from the impact of those US nuclear tests over 50 years ago, can certainly understand our concerns about a proliferation of nuclear weapons in our region.

I hope that other Arab countries will follow the UAE’s lead in paying attention to these far-off micro-states. The UAE’s initiative is one of which we should all be proud.

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