7 March 2005
UAE’s political stands unchanged
Gulf Emirate says there are no political strings attached to free trade talks with Washington.
ABU DHABI - The United Arab Emirates said on Monday it was not committing itself to any changes in foreign policy by entering into talks on a free trade pact with the United States.
The statement followed reports that Washington would ask Abu Dhabi to drop a trade boycott of Israel during the negotiations, which kick off here on Tuesday.
"Going into these negotiations does not commit the UAE to effect any changes pertaining to foreign relations in its political stands," said Minister of State for Financial and Industrial Affairs Mohammad Khalfan bin Kharbash, who will co-chair the Emirati negotiating team.
"There are no political conditions attached to the proposed accord," bin Kharbash was quoted by the official WAM news agency as telling reporters.
"The purpose of the negotiations on a free trade deal with the United States is to develop the UAE’s national economy and reinforce Abu Dhabi’s position as a leading economic power in the region," he said.
The Saudi business daily Al-Eqtissadiya on Sunday quoted "a responsible Emirati source" as saying that during the talks, "the United States will ask the UAE to cease its boycott of Israel and to commit to boycott any country subjected to a US trade and economic embargo."
A well-informed Emirati economist, who requested anonymity, also said Monday that Washington would ask Abu Dhabi to drop its economic boycott of Israel.
However, he did not expect the UAE to comply.
The Arab League’s Boycott Office of Israel (BOI) is assigned with the task of updating every six months a "blacklist" of both Israeli firms, subjected to a direct boycott, and third-country companies dealing with Israel.
But the indirect boycott of third-country firms trading with Israel largely lapsed with the launch of the Middle East peace process in 1991.