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Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi in talks with Putin

ABU DHABI // Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, held bilateral talks with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Thursday to discuss efforts to bring about an end to conflicts in the region as well as increasing security cooperation and economic ties.

The UAE is Russia’s closest partner in the GCC, and Moscow has sought to deepen its relationship with Abu Dhabi as part of its push to become a powerful player in the Middle East and North Africa.

During his meeting with Mr Putin, Sheikh Mohammed pointed out that the relations between the UAE and Russia are old and developing at all levels, and both countries were eager to strengthen and drive forward those developments, in the interests of both their nations.

At this year’s International Defence Exhibition and Conference (Idex) in February, Moscow and Abu Dhabi announced they would jointly produce a fifth-generation fighter jet in the UAE. On Thursday, Russian trade minister Denis Manturov said the two countries were also in talks for Moscow to supply “several dozen” Su-35 fighter jets to the UAE military, which until now has used only US, British and French jets.

On the subject of Russia and the rivalry between its close ally Iran and Saudi Arabia, observers believe the UAE is in a good position to help find solutions to the destabilising wars in Syria and Yemen.

“Russia’s interest in the Middle East is seen by the Emirates as a positive development that could be used to balance countries off of each other and try to find a settlement,” said Theodore Karasik, a senior adviser at the Gulf States Analytics think tank in Washington. “The Emiratis, with their unique relationship with the Kremlin, are trying to settle these issues.”

The Crown Prince’s meeting also comes as the new US administration is ratcheting up its anti-Iran rhetoric, while US -Russia relations have hit — in Washington’s estimation — “an all-time low.”

As a friend to both nations (the US is Abu Dhabi’s chief international partner) the UAE is trying to help to defuse those tensions.

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* With additional reporting by Associated Press, Reuters and WAM

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