Dubai /Â WAM
Combining the capabilities of the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia can create historic opportunities for their people and the whole region, said Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, at a joint retreat held on Saadiyat Island on Tuesday by some 150 Emirati and Saudi officials to discuss the best ways to advance relations between the two countries to what he described as a new and exceptional level.
Called Al Azm, or determination in Arabic, the retreat seeks to turn agreements and understandings into tangible field projects that will benefit the people of the two countries and achieve a new level of exceptional relations between the UAE and Saudi Arabia, noted Sheikh Mohammed.
The retreat was held following directives from President of the UAE His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia, to enhance historic relations between the two countries and draw a roadmap to develop them in the long term.
Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed and Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Chairman of the Council for Economic and Development Affairs, co-chaired the retreat, held as one in a series of joint meetings aimed at intensifying co-operation and consultations in several spheres.
HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, Emirati and Saudi ministers and senior officials took part in the retreat.
“Through our integration, solidarity and unity, we can protect our gains, enhance our economies and build a better future for our people. I am optimistic about the young leaders responsible for the quest for integration between the two countries, namely Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and H.H. Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan,” Sheikh Mohammed said.
“Chairing the Emirati delegation is the best guarantee for the success of this quest. We have great confidence in his ability to lead this historic progress between the two countries,” he added.
Sheikh Mansour described the Emirati-Saudi relations as “strong, but the leadership wants them to be exceptional and exemplary and moving towards a new, different and integrational level.”
“His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid and His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, are closely following up on all the steps of co-operation between the two countries and have directed the speeding up of this blessed quest,” he said.
“We are the largest two Arab economies, have the most modern forces in terms of arms, form one social fabric and have leaders who want co-operation to go further, and people who want further integration.”
The combined gross domestic product of the UAE and Saudi Arabia stands at US$1 trillion, the largest such in the Middle East, with $713 billion in exports, the fourth largest globally. Trade between the two countries amounted to AED84 billion, Sheikh Mansour noted.
The UAE investments in the Kingdom amounted to AED15 billion, he said.
“The aim of the al-Azm retreat is to discuss all potentialities and opportunities that we can build together in all sectors. At the retreat, we will discuss the 10 pillars of integration. All the projects and initiatives will be announced in Saudi capital Riyadh in the coming period,” Sheikh Mansour added, while stressing that exceptional relations between the two countries were a source of support for the Gulf Cooperation Council, now witnessing fast-paced progress under the leadership of King Salman.
In welcome speeches delivered at the retreat, Mohammad bin Abdullah Al Gergawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs and The Future, and Adel Faqih, Saudi Arabia’s Economy and Planning Minister, stressed that the outcome of the meeting would support the Saudi-UAE Coordination Council, and the efforts being made by the two countries within the GCC, and usher in a new stage of fruitful action by the two countries.
“Our goal is to create a platform for consultation and co-ordination between our work teams. The agenda of the retreat includes three strategic pillars covering economy, knowledge, human resources, as well as political, military and security aspects,” Al Gergawi said.
More than 150 Emirati and Saudi government officials, and representatives of the private sector formed 10 teams to discuss as many topics. Another 10 topics will be discussed in a second retreat to be held in the near future in Riyadh.
Co-chaired by ministers and senior officials from the UAE and Saudi Arabia, the separate sessions of the retreat discussed innovative solutions to maximise benefits from current resources, and build an effective and integral education system to prepare qualified national human resources.
Concluding the retreat, Minister Al Gergawi and Minister Faqih stressed that work teams and groups would be formed to co-ordinate between various sectors to execute the proposed initiatives.