A new era in Italy-UAE ties. On Monday, Rome lifted the ban on weapons sales to the United Arab Emirates, which was implemented during Giuseppe Conte’s government in 2019. The move signalled a warm-up in a relationship that has been frosty since then.
- The executive led by Giorgia Meloni implemented a decision taken by her predecessor, Mario Draghi, based on “new elements” – i.e. the cessation of the UAE’s military engagement in Yemen and the promise of a peace agreement, as well as funds allocated for the stabilisation and reconstruction of the country.
What has changed? The decision was taken on the basis of a Ministry of Foreign Affairs report, supported by Parliament, which noted that the UAE’s military engagement in Yemen “had ceased” and that the scenario has “continued to evolve positively: since April 2022, military activities in Yemen have slowed down and circumscribed, and diplomatic activity has had an important acceleration.”
- “The UAE’s engagement with other regional actors has progressed. Between 2015 and 2021, the Emirates allocated €5.5 billion for the stabilisation and reconstruction of Yemen, a commitment that continued in 2022 with €500 million and again last November with the International Monetary Fund and Arab Monetary Fund with a commitment of $1.5 billion over three years,” it goes on.
The expert’s take. “This was expected news,” comments Badr al Shateri, a lecturer at the National Defense College in Abu Dhabi and a columnist for leading Emirati news outlet Al Bayan. “Since Giorgia Meloni took office as PM, she has tried to develop relations with the UAE on a realistic and pragmatic basis,” he told Decode39.
- Signalling his will to mend ties, Emirati leader Mohammed bin Zayed congratulated the PM when she won the September elections.
- The Italian PM then travelled to Abu Dhabi in early March to rekindle the relationship and sign energy and climate cooperation agreements.
Positive momentum. According to the expert, the UAE’s importance for the Arab and Gulf region cannot be neglected. Relations between Abu Dhabi and Rome had reached “the worst conditions” due to the arms export ban, and “it is natural that the current executive decided to lift [it] as a goodwill gesture.”
- “The opportunity is ripe for improving relations between the two countries in several areas, especially as the UAE seeks to diversify its economy, which will allow Italian companies to invest in many sectors, from industry to food security, to alternative energies, to medicine,” continued Mr al Shateri.
- On the other hand, as Ebtesam al-Ketbi, president and founder of the Emirates Policy Center, told our sister site, “Italy and the Emirates share vital strategic interests, which are reflected in the substantial growth of their trade partnership over the past 18 years. Both sides have a common interest in protecting the MENA and Mediterranean regions, fighting terrorism, and addressing emerging and hybrid threats.”