Saudi-UAE pact a ray of hope for region
Riyadh and Abu Dhabi’s strategic plan to cooperate more closely on the economic, political and social fronts is a ray of hope
Riyadh and Abu Dhabi’s strategic plan to cooperate more closely on the economic, political and social fronts is a ray of hope for a region whose prospects have been gloomy to say the least.
To state the obvious, there has been little consensus on the way forward among the leading actors in this part of the world. This has had a major impact on the stability and security of the region.
The alliance between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has raised the real possibility that the current power vacuum could be filled. The two countries have a history of conflict resolution, and importantly, have shown no imperialist ambitions.
The optimism created by this alliance is an opportunity that should not be missed by other Arab countriesMohammed Fahad al-Harthi
The two nations have always worked quite effectively within the Gulf Cooperation Council, which despite its internal disputes, remains the most influential institution in Arab politics.
An added advantage is that the alliance was not born solely out of political necessity. There has always been a close relationship between Saudis and Emiratis, with huge numbers of Saudis heading to the UAE every year for their holidays.
There is already strong trade between two of the most powerful regional economies. Emirati companies have a significant foothold in the Saudi market, in the telecommunications and real estate sectors, with significant opportunities for further mutual growth.
In June, the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KACARE) signed an agreement with the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company (Masdar) to explore cooperation in the renewable energy sector. Many observers believe that this would see Saudi Arabia and the UAE become the outright leaders in power generation in the Middle East North Africa region in the near future.
The most important aspect of these closer relations is that they are being institutionalized, a task carried out by a Joint Higher Committee. The committee will oversee political, social, cultural, economic, developmental, environmental and scientific cooperation.
This development in the Middle East is a reminder of how German and French cooperation aided the rapprochement between various war-torn countries after the end of the Cold War. Many analysts believe that this was the catalyst for European cohesion.
In addition, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have always shared similar views on how to tackle problems in the Arab world, including their approach on creating a future free from extremism and terrorism. Both nations took the strategic decision to stand by the new Egyptian leadership, which stems from an understanding of how important that troubled country is to a unified Arab world.
The optimism created by this alliance is an opportunity that should not be missed by other Arab countries. It is the chance to create an effective model for political and strategic relations. The lack of a systematic and institutionalized approach had left many countries at the mercy of the whims and dictates of fickle leaders in the region, which often led to bloody wars.
It comes as some comfort to know that a team of experienced politicians in Saudi Arabia and the UAE are working to translate this project into reality, with a set of rules and accords. The door is open for other Arab countries to sign up.
Now more than ever, when there are such dark and forbidding clouds hovering over the region, Arab leaders across the political spectrum must become more pragmatic and put aside some of their individual ambitions for the greater good. The alternative is too ghastly to complete, as we can see now by events unfolding in many neighboring countries.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE are showing the way forward. A better future is possible, despite what the naysayers have been predicting.
This article was first published in Arab News on October 1, 2014.
Mohammed Fahad al-Harthi is the editor-in-chief of Sayidaty and al-Jamila magazines. A prominent journalist who worked with Asharq al-Awsat in London and Arab News in KSA, al-Harthi later moved on to establish al-Eqtisadiah newspaper in KSA, in which he rose the position of Editorial Manager. He was appointed editor-in-chief for Arajol magazine in 1997. He won the Gulf Excellence award in 1992.