The UAE and Russia on Tuesday reiterated their firm stance towards a political solution to the crisis in Syria, throwing full weight behind efforts by Saudi Arabia and Egypt in this regard.
“We hope that efforts of Russia, Saudi Arabia and Egypt will make Syria peace talks in Astana with the Syrian government and representatives of Syrian opposition groups a success in the next few days and weeks,” Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, told a joint news conference along with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov.
Sheikh Abdullah said undoubtedly the Riyadh meetings on Syria were extremely important, praising the role played by Russia and Egypt to persuade parties to attend and be constructive. However, he said that “coordination of stances needs more time.”
“The call made by the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan De Mistura, for the Syrian opposition factions to unify their ranks is part of the success of the Astana and Geneva tracks. We ask them all to advance towards this path,” he said.
Sheikh Abdullah reiterated that unifying this diverse group of Syrians who put aside differences in the interest of building a new Syria was a success made by Astana as well as Geneva peace talks.
He called for further steps in coordination with efforts to confront terror organizations including ISIS and al-Nusra Front and to draw lessons from the success of deescalation zones in Syria.
The UAE urged Iran and Turkey to end what it called their “colonial” actions in Syria, signaling unease about diminishing Gulf Arab influence in the war.
“If Iran and Turkey continue the same historical, colonial and competitive behavior and perspectives between them in Arab affairs, we will continue in this situation not just in Syria today but tomorrow in some other countries,” Sheikh Abdullah said.
The UAE Foreign Minister urged “the exit of those parties trying to reduce the sovereignty of the Syrian state, and I speak here frankly and clearly about Iran and Turkey.”
For his part, Lavrov stressed that Russia and the UAE have identical positions in fighting terrorism violently and the need to suppress extremist and terrorist ideologies.
He further informed that the UAE and Russian talks tackled of the latest developments in Syria, Libya, Yemen and Iraq in addition to finding a settlement to the Palestinian cause.
”The UAE and Russia maintain close approaches towards all these files and the two countries are keen to boost joint coordination towards all these issues,” he stressed.
Answering a question about Syria, the Russian minister noted the keenness to fully implement the UNSC Resolution 2254, which sets out a clear road map for a political settlement of the crisis along with the need to combat all terrorists who are entrenched in Syrian territories as well as those who have come to Syria from other countries.
“The Syrian opposition is required to act realistically and stay away from the rhetoric of threatening to implement the resolution,” he affirmed.
“The fate of Syria will be decided by the Syrians themselves. There should be no preconditions, and both the government and the opposition should sit on the negotiating table to discuss the future of Syria,” he said.
Moscow supports Saudi Arabia’s initiative to unite three Syrian opposition platforms, Lavrov stressed.
“When Saudi Arabia put forward the initiative to unite the High Negotiations Committee, which was once formed at a meeting in Riyadh, with the Cairo group of oppositionists and the Moscow group of oppositionists, we supported this in the most active way,” he said.
“I believe this… will contribute to the beginning of really substantial, meaningful negotiations about the future of Syria,” Lavrov told reporters.
Lavrov said he held talks with Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed, UAE National Security Adviser.
He praised the steady growth in the UAE-Russia strategic partnership, saying that more steps will be taken to boost investments in energy, industry and banks.
Sheikh Abdullah, for his part, said that UAE-Russia trade reached $2.1 billion (Dh7.7 billion) in 2016, expecting that this year will see a surge in cooperation between the two countries.
“The 350,000 Russian tourist visited the UAE last year, in addition to 16,000 Russians who work and live in the UAE,” Sheikh Abdullah said.