Greece – UAE | Commenting on the bilateral alliance to date

Marios Kanarinis*

Published on 25/02/2021 at 18:30

In the context of the resurgence of the foreign policy of the Greek government over the last year, there has been intense mobility in Greece’s relations with the United Arab Emirates. This essay attempts to represent and comment on the breaking points of the bilateral alliance between the two countries so far. 

In late August 2020, four F-16 fighter jets of the UAE Air Force, along with their technical staff, arrived at the Souda base so as to participate in the joint training with the Hellenic Air Force in the Eastern Mediterranean. The interview given to the Greek newspaper “To Vima” (published on 3/11/20) by the acting UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargas, is of great importance. The Emirati official referred to Turkey as the factor of instability in the Eastern Mediterranean and the wider Middle East. He also spoke of the influence of the AKP government by the Muslim Brotherhood, which he described as terrorist, and clarified that the prospects of cooperation with Greece are multisectoral and are expanding rapidly. According to press reports, in addition to foreign policy and defence, the two leaders described trade, tourism, investment, culture, energy, digital and government services and agriculture as the pillars of their cooperation.

Also read: Kyr. Mitsotakis | Greece-UAE form a framework of defence strategic alliance – VIDEO

This was followed by the visit of Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, to Abu Dhabi three months ago – on November, 18, 2020 – where he met the Crown Prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. This meeting was of high importance as it was announced that the two sides have a strong understanding against Turkey and its expansionist aspirations. In a joint statement, the two leaders called on Turkey to respect international law by ending all illegal actions. It was this meeting that formally laid the foundations for the strategic partnership between the two countries, while an agreement was reached in the fields of Defence and Foreign Policy. This agreement was sealed by the signing of the Military Cooperation Program (MCP 2021) between the Chief of the Hellenic National Defence General Staff, Konstantinos Floros, and his Emirati counterpart on December 9th. This protocol aims to further deepen bilateral military cooperation through joint operational and training activities.

An announcement of the HNDGS, dated February 7, states that on January 15, 2021, a lease agreement was signed regarding a 90-acre area for a camp in Avlona, ​​Attica, which will be used by the UAE Armed Forces so as to establish necessary infrastructure for hosting their personnel, who will be trained by the Hellenic Aerospace Industry (HAI). Reaching the most recent development so far, on Sunday, February 7, the Navy’s “Hydra” Frigate sailed from the Salamina Naval Station to the UAE. The frigate will participate in events within the framework of the “International Defence Exhibitions IDEX & NAVDEX 2021”, which will take place at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center, from Sunday 21st to Thursday 25th February 2021, according to the same announcement. 

Also read: Ministry of Defence | Cyprus – UAE historic agreement on defence and military cooperation – VIDEO 

The author’s position is that this bilateral agreement is a diplomatic success for Greece, while it is an indisputable fact that the benefits will be significant for both countries. In any case, the timeliness of Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ visit to Abu Dhabi with the statements of the acting UAE Foreign Minister shows speed of action and determination in the foreign policy of the Greek government. Timely moves exude seriousness and in many cases highlight the implementation of a strategic plan that ideally needs to exist.

Greece and the UAE are two countries that want security and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean region and their alliance has certainly alarmed the Turkish side. Let us not forget the position of the Persian Gulf country in the recent Libyan issue for an immediate solution and peace in the country, in a crisis where the Turkish intervention is known. Among the most positive developments is the normalization of the UAE relations with Israel, with which Greece and Cyprus have had close defence ties in recent years. It is a given that multilateral exercises with the participation of both countries will increase. 

The UAE is a country with steady progress in many sectors. It would be naive not to link this progress to the economic power of the country. Focusing on the technological progress of this country, it is emphasized that it has reached the highest levels. This is evidenced by the recent position of the UAE “Hope” spacecraft in orbit around planet Mars. 

Also read: Joint training of units of the Hellenic Navy and the UAE – VIDEO

It is the first Arab country and the 5th in the world – following the USA, Russia (USSR), India and the European Union – to achieve this. Armament programs and the continuation of technological progress are high on the UAE agenda. It is therefore expected that the technological development in the armament programs of the UAE will favour the military progress of the Persian Gulf state. In such a case, Greece can only feel victorious in the future, as it will benefit through the alliance with the UAE either in terms of know-how or by equipping its army with weapon systems made in the Emirates -if certain criteria are met- and the Greek reality favors something like that.

The author embraces the view expressed by other experts that Greece’s cooperation with the UAE will be a prelude to other subsequent alliances. However, that remains to be seen! 

* Political scientist and trainee researcher at the Cyprus Center for European and International Affairs, University of Nicosia.

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