Creating new perspectives since 2009

Saudi, UAE hold talks as regional rivalry threatens split

September 7, 2021 at 2:36 pm

Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammad bin Salman al-Saud (L) is welcomed by Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan with an official ceremony at Abu Dhabi Airport in Abu Dhabi, UAE on 22 November 2018 [BANDAR ALGALOUD/Anadolu Agency]

Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman held talks with his Emirati counterpart Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, yesterday, in what looks to be an attempt to pull the handbrakes on the two neighbour’s deteriorating relations.

Bin Salman called Al Nahyan and discussed “the prospects of further consolidating the strategic cooperation” between the countries, the UAE’s state-run WAM news agency said. No further details were provided.

Talks between the de-facto rulers follow a recent announcement by Abu Dhabi of the launch of several initiatives to lure foreign investors, which were seen as a challenge to Riyadh. Easing residency rules and support for Emirati projects are amongst the initiatives.

The hope is to raise $150 billion worth of freeing investment and make Abu Dhabi more competitive in a region overcrowded with oil-dependent economies facing similar challenges and targeting the same foreign investors.

READ: Challenging Riyadh, UAE launches new initiative to lure foreign investors

For its part, Riyadh has also recently taken several measures targeting the UAE in a bid to force multinationals to relocate to the Saudi capital. In signs of what’s to come, last week Saudi Arabia instructed news channels to transfer their headquarters to Riyadh. It was a clear blow to Dubai, home to many global and local media companies.

The national interests of Riyadh and Abu Dhabi have diverged increasingly in recent years, as well as their views on regional issues. Until recently the two countries saw eye to eye in most regional matters. However, cracks have started to appear, beginning in 2019 when the UAE withdrew most of its military forces from Yemen, leaving Saudi Arabia alone in its war against Iran-backed Houthis. The Emirates was also found to be backing a rival government in Yemen.

Other major sources of tension are said to be the speed of Saudi-led efforts to end the trade and travel embargo on Qatar, about which Abu Dhabi is not pleased, while Riyadh is equally frustrated over the pace of UAE normalisation with Israel.