Nato looks into plan for UAE embassy

The UAE is to attempting to become the first Arab country to send an ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato), but details are yet to be finalised, officials said yesterday.

After talks with Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Poland's foreign minister, Radoslaw Sikorski, said on Wednesday that his country was "very happy that the UAE is to become the first Arab country to open an embassy at the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation."

However, Nato said yesterday it was still considering the UAE's request.

"The new partnership policy agreed at the Berlin Nato Foreign Ministers meeting allows all Nato partners to request the opening of diplomatic missions to the Alliance Headquarters in Brussels. This will be done on a case-by-case basis, based on a decision by the NAC. Allies are currently examining the request by the UAE to open a diplomatic mission to Nato," a Nato official said.

Nato officials were unable to comment further "as long as the decision and modalities on its establishment have not yet been finalised by Nato and the UAE".

Talks on Nato co-operation began in Istanbul in 2004. The UAE joined Nato's Istanbul Co-operation Initiative, which was launched at an alliance summit that year to bolster bilateral security co-operation with countries in the Middle East.

Those Istanbul talks resulted in a 2008 visit by Nato's secretary general - his first to the UAE. In October 2009, Nato and the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs organised a conference on "Nato-UAE Relations and the Way Forward in the Istanbul Co-operation Initiative", which took place at the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi.

The relationship, which is both military and diplomatic, has progressed since, experts said.

Theodore Karasik, the director of research and development at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, said: "The relationship is mostly strategic in nature, and has developed over the past few years.

"It's another forward step for the UAE as it links itself to European security. It's also proactive in the sense of what is occurring throughout North Africa, and that the UAE sees this move as part of its security architectural plan."

Although Nato primarily deals in security, "terrorism and proliferation are only two examples" of the ways in which the UAE and Nato could co-operate, the Nato secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in 2009.

The UAE has worked with Nato's International Security Assistance Forces, its military presence in Afghanistan.

"For several years we co-operated with Nato and we also co-operate with the alliance in Afghanistan. We believe that this participation puts us in a specific position. We understand the situation in Afghanistan better and it is important for an Arab and Muslim country to be on the ground in Afghanistan. And we know better how to co-operate and how to rebuild and to develop Afghanistan," Sheikh Abdullah said at the 2009 conference.

[Source: By Habiba Hamid, The National, UAE, 23May11]

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