Interview with HE Jamal Al Musharakh, Director of Policy Planning Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation
With Author and Analyst Dr. Seth J. Frantzman
29 November 2020
A portion of this interview appeared at The Jerusalem Post on December 2, 2020
Q. On lots of different files, many countries do not seem to be fully on the rebound, such as Yemen, Libya, and Syria. There is a lack of clarity whether these countries will be able to recover.
A. It is important that vacuums in these countries do not remain for long or are exploited by groups or foreign countries for their own benefit. It is about the stability of the institutions of these countries and these countries being able to have their grievances addressed by their own governments rather than relying on an outside government with ill intentions.
Q. Talk a little bit about the specifics in the Abraham Accords and what your expectations are going forward. How will the Accords impact the region?
A. The Abraham Accords came at a very unique time during the beginning of a new decade when the global focus has been on countering the COVID-19 pandemic. When the Abraham Accords came about, it surprised the region and international community. The impact has been a positive one, and the reactions that we have received were expected. We knew who would welcome [the Accords] and who would make criticize them. Still, the accord gave life to the prospect of peace in the region, which is not a word that has been associated with the region over the last decade. I think it is a paradigm shift when it comes to how the region is viewed. The accord benefits the entire region in investment, tourism, and so forth. When the word “peace” is directly associated with the region, it is very motivating. Now, in the international community, peace between the Israeli and Palestinian sides has been at the top of the agenda regardless of how many other conflicts have emerged. This has always been a topic at the forefront of the international agenda, and so this prospect is a positive step to change the image of Israel to the Arabs and the UAE and vice-versa. This understanding can make a huge impact because we lived next to each other for so long without much knowing much about each other. The UAE has developed the concepts of tolerance, cooperation, partnership, and coexistence, as we are a year away from our 50th anniversary. The concept of tolerance has been fostered since the inception of our country and remains a key part of the country’s vision. Progress is underway to open diplomatic missions, initiate agreements, sign MoUs, and exchange visits. It's really about putting our heads together on how the region can prosper with peace at the core.
Q. The UAE conducts strategic dialogues with other countries, some of which probably share a common worldview with Israel and other countries on the region's stability. I know there is a recent agreement with Greece. Could you talk how the UAE sees its strategic partners?
A. In terms of strategic partnership, the UAE, as a medium-sized country, knows that the way to move forward is always in a collective, and we were never limited by geography in terms of our partnerships. No country sees eye-to-eye with another country, and that is okay; that's why strategic partners and dialogue exist. As you have seen, we have strategic partnerships with countries in Europe and dialogues with the US and India, and so forth. It is really important to have these relationships to advance; it is about moving to the next level and being able to discuss global issues with each other and not only bilateral issues. There is also always the urge to move forward in partnerships to be able to see what commonalities we have with other countries, whether they are economic or cultural, or for example, with Greece regarding our concerns over Turkey’s actions in the Mediterranean. It's about bringing policies together rather than having an isolated policy, which is never beneficial in the long run. It's about integrating your views with other countries to be able to move forward. These dialogues are the way forward, and it is no secret that we have these strategic relations with countries that are not necessarily on good terms with each other. For instance, we have a strategic relationship with Russia and the US and China, and it’s really about showing that the UAE is the country that would partner with other countries to the benefit of the international community, not simply the two countries involved. This is a very important point when it comes to the relationship between Israel and the UAE. This vision of a collective benefit for the region through dialogue, coexistence, and the bringing together of expertise is beneficial. It's about the long-term vision, not immediate quick wins. It's about a vision against extremist views and interference.
Q. Could you foresee that one of the issues Israel has faced in the region is that it is often isolated? Even though it had a peace agreement with Egypt and Jordan, Israel’s relations with Jordan are not great, at least not officially. With Egypt, relations are better, but there are rarely public meetings at the diplomatic level and certainly no joint training. For instance, I think the UAE has just completed joint training with Egypt, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan. Do you foresee through the Abraham Accords additional diplomatic cooperation and see more countries in the room together?
A. There is a lot of room for collective and more specifically trilateral partnerships. We have seen this with the joint visit with Germany. It’s part of this new relationship to be able to explore these venues and not to limit opportunities. Some trilateral diplomatic talks will take a long time. Regionally, as you mentioned Israel’s relations with Jordan and Egypt, we need to keep in mind that with the initiation of bilateral ties between the UAE and Israel or Bahrain and Israel, we are not in a dispute over land. We are not next-door neighbors. As such, this is a warm peace without a history of turbulence. It is important to elevate this vision of non-isolation and see progress in negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis. This will show that there is hope to move forward, and at the end of the day, it is on them to find a resolution to the underlying cause in the region. While US involvement remains and international processes continue, if both sides do not sit down and talk about this, then we will have a long period of regional uncertainty.
Q. Do you foresee the UAE will play a major role in terms of working with the Palestinian Authority or playing a role in the peace process?
A. All that I can say is that the UAE wants to play a positive role in any way forward. I can't specify what that role will be, but the UAE would like to play a positive role in any progress.
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