The United Arab Emirates and the United States are facing a “stress test” in their relationship, a senior Emirati diplomat said Thursday, as Russia’s war in Ukraine strains ties.
Yousef al-Otaiba, the Emirati ambassador to the US, was speaking days after the UAE abstained in a UN Security Council vote on a resolution demanding a Russian withdrawal from Ukraine.
“Our relationship with the US is like any relationship. It has strong days where the relationship is very healthy, and days where the relationship is under question,” he told the International Defence Industry, Technology and Security Conference in Abu Dhabi.
“Today, we’re going through a stress test, but I’m confident that we will get out of it and we will get to a better place.”
The wealthy Gulf state hosts US troops and has been a strategic partner to Washington for decades, but it also has growing economic and political ties with Russia.
The UAE, which currently holds the UN Security Council presidency, on Friday abstained from voting on a US-Albanian draft resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Three days later, the UN Security Council voted to extend an arms embargo to all of Yemen’s Iran-backed Huthi rebels. After Russia, which is close to Iran, voted in favour of the UAE-supported resolution, diplomats suggested a deal was cut between Moscow and Abu Dhabi.
The Gulf state has also shown no interest in increasing oil production to ease prices sent sky-rocketing by the Russian invasion, saying it remains committed to the OPEC+ alliance, which is led by Saudi Arabia and Russia and controls the levels of output.
The recent developments come after US forces fired Patriot interceptors to help thwart a Huthi missile attack on Abu Dhabi in January. Three oil workers were killed in an earlier attack.
In December, the UAE threatened to scrap its mega-purchase of US F-35 fighter jets, protesting stringent conditions set by Washington over concerns on China.