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The distance between Saudi Arabia and the Emirates is increasing! - English.DailyProbash.com
November 30, 2023, 1:37 pm

The distance between Saudi Arabia and the Emirates is increasing!

  • Update Time : Monday, March 6, 2023
  • 29 Time View

When the United Arab Emirates hosted a summit of Middle East leaders at a seaside palace in Abu Dhabi in January, there was one conspicuously absent leader: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. A month ago, Emirati President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan was absent from a high-level Sino-Arab summit in Riyadh. Gulf officials say the Saudi crown prince and the Emirati president have been consciously absent from each other’s events. Although the leaders of Jordan, Egypt, Qatar and other countries were present in both conferences. The absence underscores the years-long dispute between the two countries, which have been US security partners in the region.

Officially, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates are still allies. But conflicts between them are increasing in various fields. The opposition is manifesting itself over competition for foreign investment, influence in the global oil market and the course of the war in Yemen. At one time this conflict was behind the scenes but now it is gradually coming out into the open. It is feared that this could lead to a new alignment of allies in the oil-rich Gulf region. Especially as Iran seeks to expand its influence in the region and Russia’s war in Ukraine has pushed up crude oil prices. The OPEC decision-making process may also suffer.

UAE security adviser Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan, close to the Saudi crown prince. He has already visited Riyadh several times in an attempt to meet with the 37-year-old influential Saudi prince. But failed to reduce the tension. He has failed to meet with the Saudi crown prince at least once since the Abu Dhabi summit in January, people familiar with such visits say. Emirati Sheikh Mohammed, 61, was once an adviser to the Saudi crown prince. A few years ago, the two leaders spent a night in the desert of Saudi Arabia. But recently the distance between the two people has increased. Especially the vision of the leadership is taking them on different paths. In addition, Sheikh Mohammed is somewhat avoiding the investigation that the Saudi prince is facing.


Dina Fsandyari, senior adviser on the Middle East and North Africa at the International Crisis Group, said such conflict and open opposition to each other was unheard of even a few years ago. Now it is becoming almost normal. Emirati officials declined to comment on the matter. Saudi officials did not respond to requests for comment. In February, Anwar Gargash, an Emirati foreign policy adviser to Sheikh Mohammed, reaffirmed the unity of the UAE and Saudi Arabia on Twitter. He referred to the conflict between the Gulf allies as wrong.

The biggest conflict between the two countries is Yemen. An Arab military coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the Emirates intervened in the country in 2015. The country is divided into two parts due to civil war. Iran-backed Houthi rebels control the north of the country, while the internationally recognized government controls the south. In 2019, the Emirates withdrew most of its infantry from Yemen. But the country fears they could be left out of talks on Yemen’s future. Because Saudi Arabia is trying to negotiate directly with Houthi rebels to end the war. This is what has emerged in the statement of the Gulf officials. They also say the UAE wants to maintain a strategic position on Yemen’s southern coast. Starting from a power project in the Red Sea, Abu Dhabi also wants to protect its sea lanes in different countries of the world.


Last December, Saudi Arabia signed an agreement with the Yemeni government. The agreement authorizes the intervention of Emirati forces when the country is threatened, the training of Yemeni forces and deepening intelligence cooperation. The Emirates also wants to build a military base and runway on the Bab al-Mandeb island strait in the Red Sea. Gulf officials say Saudi Arabian officials have raised objections to the security agreement and plans for military bases behind closed doors. They believe the Emirates are working against Riyadh’s main goal of securing the 800-mile border to prevent Houthi drone and missile attacks.

These officials also said that as a countermeasure, Saudi Arabia has deployed Sudanese troops of the Arab military coalition in the vicinity of the Emirate operation. This is considered by Emirati officials as a scare tactic. When Sheikh Mohammed did not appear at a China conference in Riyadh in December, Saudi officials said they saw it as a sign of Emiratis’ displeasure with the growing competition in Yemen. The ruler of the Emirate’s Fujairah province appeared at the summit of Chinese President Xi Jinping in place of Sheikh Mohammed.

Behind the scenes, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, two of the world’s largest oil producers, are also at loggerheads over energy issues. Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) representatives say the Saudi-led group has limited production. As a member of the organization, Emirates is obliged to accept it. But Abu Dhabi has the capacity to produce more oil than this limit. This reduces their oil income. They have long been advocating for more oil production. But Saudi Arabia is not agreeing to it.

Emirati officials say they are in discussions among themselves about leaving OPEC. If they decide to leave the company, the company’s power in the world oil market will be eroded. Although no action has been taken, such discussions have been going on for several years. But recent disagreements with Saudi Arabia are exacerbating this.
In October last year, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates were embroiled in a dispute when OPECplus (OPEC members and ten other countries including Russia) decided to dramatically cut production in response to rising crude oil prices.

Emirates has publicly supported the decision to cut production. But U.S. officials say the Emiratis have told them in private they want to ramp up production in line with Washington’s wishes. But Saudi Arabia opposed. Since then, behind the scenes, the Emirates has been pushing OPECplus to increase production. Esfandiari said Emiratis are concerned that Saudi Arabia may act against their interests. Saudi Arabia’s concern is that the emirate is a threat to Saudi influence in the Gulf.

Analysts say the Saudi-Emirati dispute is not as serious as Qatar. Qatar’s neighbors cut diplomatic, trade and travel ties from mid-2017 to early 2021. Saudi Arabia and the Emirates are still participating in joint military exercises. But their days of walking together are over.
This dispute started after the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. Emirati officials say the incident caused Emiratis to reconsider how close they will be to Saudi Arabia. When the Emirates withdrew its troops from Yemen in 2019, Saudi Arabia felt abandoned. The emirate’s agreement to normalize relations with Israel has further distanced itself from Saudi Arabia.

Officials and diplomats previously said Abu Dhabi was alarmed by Riyadh’s swift resolution of its dispute with Qatar in early 2021. It was mainly the Emirates that wanted to isolate Qatar and were in favor of maintaining the blockade. Saudi Arabia wants to take regional headquarters of foreign companies in its country. Which may challenge Dubai’s position as the international commercial hub of the Middle East. Last November there were hints of a possible realignment in the Gulf region. At that time, the king of Bahrain, known to be very close to Saudi Arabia, appeared in the Formula One competition with Sheikh Mohammed in Abu Dhabi. In the same week, the Saudi Crown Prince was in Doha with the Emir of Qatar at the opening ceremony of the World Cup football.

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