November 8, 2017

The Persian Gulf Becoming Nearer

Oleksiy Volovych

From October 31 to November 2, President of Ukraine P. Poroshenko and his wife were on an official visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and on a working visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). On this trip, the President of Ukraine was accompanied by Foreign Minister P. Klimkin, Minister of Defense S. Poltorak, Minister of Infrastructure V. Omelyan, head of the Presidential Administration I. Raynin and other senior officials.

 

On November 1, President P. Poroshenko had a meeting with King of Saudi Arabia Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, during which he thanked him for supporting, within the framework of international organizations, Ukraine's initiatives aimed at protecting its sovereignty and territorial integrity. At this, P. Poroshenko reminded that in March 2014, Saudi Arabia supported Ukraine and condemned the illegal annexation of the Crimea. The President of Ukraine also expressed the hope that Saudi Arabia would join the international efforts aimed at protecting the rights and national interests of the Crimean Tatar people of Ukraine living in the Crimea, annexed by Russia.

For his own part, King Salman pointed out the friendly nature of the relations between the two states and confirmed that the Kingdom is interested in further development of the mutually beneficial cooperation with Ukraine in different spheres. Following the meeting, agreements were reached on the intensification of bilateral cooperation in the political, trade and economic, military-technical, energy and investment spheres. The parties coordinated their efforts to keep regional peace and security, as well as to struggle against international terrorism.

A meeting of the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko with King of Saudi Arabia Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud
A meeting of the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko with
King of Saudi Arabia Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud

Within the framework of the Ukrainian President's visit to the KSA, several bilateral documents were signed: a memorandum between the governments of Ukraine and the KSA on cooperation in the sphere of agriculture, which provides for doubling of the Saudi investments in the agro-industry of Ukraine (since 2013, the Saudi Arabia's United Farmers Holding Company (UFHC) has been leasing in Ukraine about 40 thousand hectares of land, growing for their own needs mainly cereal crops); an agreement on cooperation with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC); an agreement on cooperation between the Saudi Press Agency and the Ukrainian National Information Agency “Ukrinform”; a program of cooperation between the Diplomatic Academy of Ukraine named after G. Udovenko under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine and the Institute of Diplomatic Studies of the Foreign Ministry of the KSA, named after Prince Saud Al-Faisal. Within the framework of the visit, an agreement on Ukraine and KSA cooperation in the defense sphere was discussed and prepared for signing. At present, issues of joint production of the Ukrainian An-132D aircraft are being discussed.

In the course of the negotiations, P. Poroshenko and Managing Director of the Public Investment Fund (PIF) of the KSA, Yasir bin Othman Al-Rumayyan discussed the opportunities for the further expansion of investment cooperation between Ukraine and Saudi Arabia, which plans to invest into the port infrastructure of Ukraine and to take part in the development and privatization of Ukrainian industrial, infrastructure and energy facilities. Assets of the above- mentioned fund are currently worth 160 billion US dollars, and in the coming years may grow to 2 trillion US dollars. Mr. Poroshenko informed that Ukraine is interested in Saudi Arabia's participation in projects in the sphere of aircraft engineering, agriculture, shipbuilding, defense industry, energy engineering and tourism.

Summing up the results of his visit to Saudi Arabia, P. Poroshenko said that agreements were reached on the simplification of the visa regime between the two countries. According to him, in addition to boosting tourism, it will also contribute to religious exchanges, taking into account that there are about 2 million Muslims living in Ukraine and they will be able to carry out a pilgrimage — Hajj to Mecca. After the official talks, P. Poroshenko awarded King Salman the Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise of the I degree for his outstanding personal contribution to the development of Ukrainian-Saudi intergovernmental relations. For his own part, King Salman presented to the President of Ukraine the Order of King Abdulaziz.

 

During his working visit to the United Arab Emirates on 1–2 November, President P. Poroshenko met with Vice President, Prime Minister, Minister of Defense of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of the Emirate of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum. During the talks, P. Poroshenko stressed the traditionally friendly nature of the relations between Ukraine and the UAE, and expressed hope that the Emirate, within the framework of international organizations, would support Ukraine's initiatives aimed at protecting sovereignty and restoring the territorial integrity of Ukraine and protecting the rights and national interests of the Crimean Tatar people of Ukraine. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum confirmed that the UAE is supporting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine in its internationally recognized borders.

A meeting of the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum
A meeting of the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko with
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum

The interlocutors pointed out the significant potential for intensifying the interaction between the two countries on a number of strategic directions of cooperation, such as energy, aircraft engineering, space research, military-technical cooperation and agriculture. Following the negotiations, was signed a memorandum on cooperation between the State Space Agency of Ukraine and the Space Agency of the UAE in the field of space exploration, which envisages the development of mutual industrial, scientific and technical exchange in space exploration.

The parties also discussed the preparation of the next meeting of the Intergovernmental Ukrainian-Emirate Commission on trade and economic cooperation, which is planned to be held in Kyiv shortly. The sides positively assessed the agreement reached on the mutual cancellation of visa requirements for citizens of Ukraine and the UAE, starting in December, 2017. Ukrainian tourists now do not have to buy an OAE's visa for 85–100 US dollars. By the way, in 2016, 112 thousand Ukrainians visited the UAE. The President of Ukraine emphasized the expediency of further improvement of air communication between the two countries and invited Sheikh Mohammed to visit Ukraine officially. Within the framework of his working visit to the UAE, P. Poroshenko met with the CEO of one of the largest port operators — DP World — Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, who confirmed his company's intentions to invest into the port industry of Ukraine and expressed his hopes for further successful implementation of DP World's projects in Ukraine. It should be noted that DP World operates 78 terminals in 43 countries. P. Poroshenko thanked Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem for his consent to join the National Investment Council under the President of Ukraine.

 

Within the framework of his visit to the UAE, P. Poroshenko met on November 2 in Abu Dhabi with President of Belarus A. Lukashenko, who also was in UAE on a working visit. The leaders of Ukraine and Belarus expressed satisfaction with the implementation of the agreements on the basis of the official visit of the President of Belarus to Kyiv in July 2017.

In 2016, the trade between Ukraine and Belarus amounted to3.8 billion US dollars, and in the current year it may exceed 4 billion US dollars. In terms of the trade turnover, Ukraine ranks second among all foreign economic partners of Belarus. The leaders of the two countries discussed the state of the preparation for the economic forum of regions of Ukraine and Belarus, which is planned to be held in Gomel. P. Poroshenko and A. Lukashenko also exchanged views on the preparations for the Eastern Partnership Summit to be held in Brussels on 24 November, 2017.

President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko and President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko in Abu Dhabi
President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko and President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko in Abu Dhabi

During the conversation, A. Lukashenko emphasized that in the political interaction between Kyiv and Minsk, “in general, there are no problems, and we are moving exactly according to the course agreed upon”. On the same day and in the same spirit, the commentary of the first Belarusian state TV channel was heard: “The economy official Minsk and Kiev are built on a solid political foundation. There are no discrepancies in this sphere, only an extremely confidential and open dialogue…”

At the same time, on the opposite bank of the Persian Gulf, in Tehran, RF President V. Putin was on an official visit, trying to prevent Ukraine from cooperating not only with post-Soviet and European countries, but also with other countries of the world, including the Middle East ones. However, these efforts of the “Kremlin dreamer” are doomed. Even Putin's “closest allies and partners” — A. Lukashenko and R. Erdogan — reject the Kremlin's insidious anti-Ukrainian ideas and regularly meet with P. Poroshenko. And, in particular, the results of successful visits of the President of Ukraine to the KSA and the UAE, his symbolic meeting with the President of Belarus in Abu Dhabi and President of Turkey R. Erdogan's visit to Ukraine on October 9, 2017, testify to this. It should be noted that almost everything that Russia offers to the Arabs, Turks and Iranians, can be provided by Ukraine and Belarus, without any political conditions, on an equal and mutually beneficial basis.