Home » Looking East: Meloni travels to UAE to boost ties across the board

Looking East: Meloni travels to UAE to boost ties across the board

Giorgia Meloni
The Italian PM will sign energy and climate cooperation agreements and consolidate its entente with Abu Dhabi across sectors. The UAE talks come after India’s and possibly before more with Israel, as Rome looks to increase its presence in this strategic framework – through novel mechanisms such as the I2U2

Giorgia Meloni is in Abu Dhabi. The Italian Prime Minister landed there right after she visited New Delhi, where she deepened the Italy-India partnership through a host of new agreements. Her stop in the United Arab Emirates follows the same lines as she seeks to consolidate Italy’s relations in the Gulf.

  • Her meeting with UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan is scheduled for Saturday morning.
  • Meanwhile, on Friday, she met with the Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and COP28 President-designate Sultan Al Jaber.

The channels of cooperation. Like the Indian stop, the PM’s trip to Abu Dhabi is intended to overcome past frictions (which include a weapons export ban and a clash over airline investments) and strengthen ties across crucial sectors. Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani, who’s accompanying Ms Meloni, noted the “many opportunities for our companies [in the UAE], including in the innovation and agribusiness sectors”.

  • After meeting with a delegation from the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, led by Secretary-General Ettore Sequi, the UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Trade Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi noted that Italy “is our main trade partner in the EU27; our non-oil trade has set new records in the first nine months of 2022.”

Energy, however, is the priority. Italian and Emirati officials are expected to sign enhanced cooperation agreements within the framework of COP28 as well as energy deals between Eni and ADNOC covering multiple areas of the energy transition.

  • That’s why Eni’s CEO Claudio Descalzi is in the UAE alongside PM Meloni: expanding the already-solid energy cooperation between the two State companies, with the positive side effect of further reducing Rome’s energy dependency on Russia.

Think I3U2. Consolidating these crucial ties is also conducive to Italy’s drive to project itself into the strategic region. It’s doing so through security partnerships with India and Japan while progressively disengaging from China and sending over an offshore patrol vessel. But it’s not just defence, as Rome strives to consolidate its ties with the region across sectors.

  • An example of cross-sector cooperation is the I2U2, i.e. the mini-lateral mechanism through which Israel, India, the UAE and the US cooperate on matters of energy, water, food, health, space and security…
  • … and there could be a chance for Rome to engage with such new, trans-regional multilateral systems by becoming the third “I” in I2U2. Beyond the trips to India and the UAE to consolidate ties, Italy boasts a strong relationship with the United States.
  • Also, Italian and Israeli diplomacies are working on a top-level meeting between PM Meloni and her Israeli counterpart Binyamin Netanyahu, which could take place as soon as next week in Rome.

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