UAE. President HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan has asserted the need for strengthening UAE's bilateral relations with Spain. In an interview with the Spanish News Agency, Sheikh Khalifa said that UAE is keen to develop relations with Spain in various areas.
Referring to the double taxation agreement recently signed between UAE and Spain, the President said that "now it is time for bolstering economic cooperation and thereby strengthening UAE's strategic partnership with Spain."
He expressed hope that the relations with Spain will also open up doors for enhancing ties with a number of Latin American countries.
"We look forward to cementing ties with these countries, using our close friendship with Spain," Sheikh Khalifa said.
Answering a question about military cooperation between UAE and Spain, Sheikh Khalifa said that during the forthcoming visit of HM King Juan Carlos of Spain to UAE, a number of bilateral agreements will be signed, including one on military cooperation which will cover aspects on training and military research Sheikh Khalifa appreciated the stand being taken by Spain in support of the just Arab cause and said the UAE and Spain share many foreign policy approaches.
Answering a question about peace in the Middle East, Sheikh Khalifa made it clear that 'the peace would not be achieved unless Israel accepted the Arab peace initiative'.
Speaking about the cultural ties between UAE and Spain, Sheikh Khalifa referred to the efforts made by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and HM King Juan Carlos of Spain for establishing an inter-faith harmony and cross-cultural dialogue.
The following is the full text of the interview.
Q: UAE relations with Spain have developed significantly in recent years. Nevertheless, these relations have remained below the expectations of the two friendly countries. Do you see the UAE-Spanish relations growing at a much greater pace in the future?
A: The UAE and Spain have had long relations dating back to the early 1980s. The pillars of these relations were laid by my late father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who had close friendship with King Juan Carlos. This personal relationship between King Juan Carlos and the late Sheikh Zayed had an enormous impact on our bilateral relations. I can now say that the two countries do enjoy strong ties, a fact that is quite discernable in our close cooperation in the areas of joint investments, energy, education, culture, technology, and media.
Recently, we signed an important agreement on avoidance of double taxation on capital and income. This agreement will not only bolster our trade relations but also lay down a legal framework for ultimately achieving a strategic partnership.
With respect to our two-way trade, we are satisfied with the current pace of growth. Since 2005, there has been a steady growth of 30% in the trade volume, which hit a total of AED 2.337 billion.
Q: The UAE is embarking on a number of major projects that encompass such diverse areas as tourism and infrastructure. It is envisaged that these mega projects would turn the UAE into a major cultural and business hub in the region and the world at large. How do you see Spain being involved in these projects?
A: We are keen to develop our relations with Spain in various areas. The UAE has a liberal economic policy that embraces foreign direct investments and also encourages transfer of technology. In this context, I welcome Spanish companies to invest in the UAE. They can take up investments in diverse areas as industries, tourism, and energy. They can also take advantage of the whole range of facilities offered by specialised economic zones in terms of services, logistical support, and other benefits.
Both the UAE and Spain can build on their own experience of joint investment in the area of energy and transport. For instance, the International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC) acquired 10% of the Spanish Petroleum Company 15 years ago. This partnership has yielded substantial benefits to the two countries. Therefore, I strongly encourage investors in the two countries to broaden the scope of cooperation by exploring new avenues of investments. Now that we have signed the double taxation agreement, we should bolster economic cooperation and thereby strengthen our strategic partnership.
Q: Spain is known to have strong relations with countries of Latin America and similarly enjoys close ties with the UAE. Do you see Spain playing the role of the UAE's gateway to Latin America and vice versa?
A: Yes, Spain has strong and historical relations with countries of Latin America. We look forward to cementing ties with these countries, using our close friendship with Spain.
Q: During the upcoming visit of King Juan Carlos to the UAE, the two countries will sign an agreement on military training and exchange of expertise. If signed, could this agreement open a new era of bilateral defence cooperation in the future?
A: We are confident that the upcoming visit of King Juan Carlos would contribute significantly to our warm friendship and bilateral cooperation. Moreover, it would widen the scope of cooperation, much to the best interest of the peoples of the two friendly countries. During the visit of King Carlos, a number of bilateral agreements will be signed, including one on military cooperation which will cover aspects on training and military research.
Q: The UAE will use Expo Zaragoza Expo 2008 as a platform to shed light on the planned power, water and clean energy projects. The Spanish private sector has already shown interest in the developments taking place in the UAE. How do you evaluate that?
A: The UAE's active participation in Expo Zaragoza 2008 emanates from the great attention we give to water and sustainable development issues. Last year, the UAE launched a multi-billion dollar initiative in renewable and alternative energy. We look forward to enhance the UAE's image in the emerging energy markets worldwide, as well as our ambition to make Abu Dhabi the global centre for future energy.
Expo Zaragoza will also enable us to get acquainted with the latest technologies and solutions for future energy.
We welcome cooperation with the specialized companies and institutions from Spain as we seek to increase our cooperation following signing in last June of a memorandum of understanding between Abu Dhabi and Spain which calls for technical cooperation in the fields of renewable energy, transport, environment and photovoltaic.
Q: The UAE is playing a vital role in the regional peace and is seen as a key supporter to the peace process and to the Palestinian people. The country is also a member of the Quartet. On the other hand, Spain hosted the Madrid peace conference and launched an initiative on cultures. How do you evaluate potentials of cooperation between the two countries to push forward the peace process in the region and to achieve a rapprochement among different cultures?
A: We do appreciate the stand being taken by Spain in support of the just Arab cause, its support to the Palestinian people and recognition of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation which has an office in Madrid since 1977. Spain also hosted the first Middle East peace conference to end the Arab-Israeli conflict.
The UAE's foreign policy is based on firm principles, including commitment to the UN Charter and other international laws, maintaining normal relations with all countries of the world, on the basis of mutual respect, non interference on others' internal affairs, calling for resolving disputes via dialogue and peaceful means, standing by the right and fair issues and contribution in international peace and stability. Adhering to these principles, the UAE has been able to play a positive role in the international community.
The UAE and Spain share many foreign policy approaches and they have coordinated and identical views on many regional and international issues, especially after signing in February 2007 a protocol for political and diplomatic cooperation and coordination.
They also maintain a strong cooperation in cultural fields and coordinate their efforts to build a cultural interaction between Arab and Western worlds.
I must refer here to the efforts made by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and HM King Juan Carlos of Spain for establishing an inter-faith harmony and cross-cultural dialogue. This cooperation culminated in holding a number of events, including the conference on inter-cultural dialogue, hosted by Spain and the establishment of the Casa Arabe (Arab House), under the auspices of King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia.
Q: What is your evaluation of the Middle East peace process?
A: We are very disappointed with the overall progress in the deteriorating situation, especially in the Palestinian territories due to the continued aggression, occupation and the siege imposed by Israel in Gaza and the West Bank.
In our view, the peace would not be achieved unless Israel accepted the Arab peace initiative which is based on the UN Security Council and international legitimacy's resolutions, calling for complete Israeli withdrawal from all Palestinian and Arab territories occupied in 1967, the establishment of the Palestinian state with Jerusalem as the capital and return of Palestinian refugees.