DUBAI: There can be no long-term solution to the 33-month-long conflict in Syria with President Bashar Al Assad in power, the UAE Prime Minister says.
“[Al] Assad will take a long time... but if you kill your people you can’t stay,” His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, told the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in an interview, excerpts of which were aired by the London-based broadcaster yesterday.
“Eventually he will go,” Shaikh Mohammad predicted.
And unlike its fellow Gulf Cooperation Council country, Qatar, that has been actively funding and supplying arms to opposition forces in Syria, the UAE prefers instead to offer humanitarian relief.
“We are supporting the people in Jordan or Turkey, we are helping those but the free [Syrian] army you don’t know, because there’s some extremists, and you don’t know how many groups there are. you hear that some groups are fighting each other,” he said.
“Maybe Qatar have a reason or a vision, but here [in the UAE] we don’t want to interfere with other people.” he said. And that means providing badly needed humanitarian aid.
“We should help but not interfere,” Shaikh Mohammad said, looking relaxed in his private retreat outside Dubai as he chatted with BBC journalist Jon Sopel. Earlier, Shaikh Mohammad gave Sopel a private tour of the Bur Dubai home of his grandfather, Shaikh Saeed Bin Maktoum Al Maktoum, who ruled Dubai from 1912 to 1958.
But because Dubai and the UAE is still a young country, there are lessons to be learnt.
Pressed by Sopel on the recent release of an American, Shezanne Cassim, who had been jailed for a year for making a satirical video of Emirati youth following the hip-hop culture in Satwa, Shaikh Mohammad was open and direct.
“We are not perfect and we try to change it,” he said. “Any mistakes, we go in and try to change it. We’re not perfect, but we are doing our best.”
And even when it comes to Israel, Shaikh Mohammad was equally candid in the interview that was taped on Sunday.
“[Providing there is a peace agreement signed], we will do everything with Israel,” he said. ‘We will trade with them and we will welcome them.”
But he reiterated that any breakthrough with the Jewish state would only come when a comprehensive agreement was in place.
“But sign the peace process [first],” he said.
For BBC viewers, Shaikh Mohammad cuts a familiar figure in the horse-racing fraternity. The name of his Newmarket-based thoroughbred stables has been tarnished by allegations that some horses were doped.
Judging by Shaikh Mohammad’s heart-felt comments on the steroid scandal, it’s a chapter that has hurt him deeply.
“I was shocked,” Shaikh Mohammad revealed.
The British Horseracing Authority banned Mahmoud Al Zarouni for eight years after finding him guilty of administering anabolic steroids at Shaikh Mohammad’s stables in Newmarket last year.
“Really, they gave him eight years and I gave him a lifetime,” Shaikh Mohammad said. “Finished. He will never come near my horses. He doped them not for racing, but for treatment long term. Now Lord Stephens will find out the whole story and we will all know what happened. The truth will come out.”