UAE minster attends St. Petersburg Forum highlighting bilateral relations with Russia

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The UAE’s Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence and Digital Economy attended the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum where bilateral relations between the Gulf country and Russia were highlighted, the official Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported on Friday.

Minister Omar bin Sultan al-Olama attended the 25th session of SPIEF, which is smaller in size this year due to the Ukraine war and the barrage of sanctions against Russia.

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The UAE, however, has remained neutral in face of the rising sanctions over Russia’s invasion, with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov saying that the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries will not join the West in imposing sanctions on Moscow over the conflict in Ukraine during a meeting with the group in June.

Gulf countries continue to call for a political solution, with the UAE calling for an immediate halt to the fighting as early as February.

During the event, al-Olama highlighted the “depth and width of the UAE-Russia relations and the importance of strengthening ties towards more joint cooperation in the economic fields,” WAM reported.

Al-Olama also reportedly met with several Russian ministers and officials to explore and review strengthening economic cooperation.

Additionally, an agreement of intent was signed to “organize UAE’s participation as the guest of honor at the forum’s next edition in 2023,” WAM reported noting the SPIEF’s capacity to open up wider trade development and investment partnerships between the two countries.

A new MoU between the UAE and the Eurasian Economic Commission will see cooperation in customs, financial markets, transportation, agro-industrial sector, industry, intellectual property, information and communication technology, in addition to digital transformation of the economy, WAM reported.

The trade minister from the UAE is expected to attend the four-day event according to a report by the Associated Press on Wednesday.

As of early June, about 2,700 business representatives from 90 countries were expected to attend, the AP reported, far below the 13,500 participants from 140 countries reported last year.

The forum, often characterized as Russia’s analogue of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, aims to portray the country as orderly and full of attractive opportunities for clever and adventurous investors.

This year’s program carries the theme to an extent that is overly optimistic for Russia’s straitened circumstances.

While some of the speakers are from China, Denis Pushilin, leader of the Ukrainian separatist Donetsk People’s Republic also announced he planned to attend.

A Taliban representative was also expected, although Russia formally designates the Taliban as a terrorist group.

The Kremlin said on Friday that the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum had suffered from a “denial of service” cyberattack on its accreditation system, forcing Russian President Vladimir Putin to delay a scheduled address by one hour.

With Reuters and The Associated Press

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