Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, at a joint news conference with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov. Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty

Abu Dhabi: The UAE said on Wednesday that in view of the growing Turkish and Iranian influence, the absence of a strong Arab role in Syria is unacceptable.

Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, at a joint news conference with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, said: “In the UAE, we are keen that there’s an Arab role in Syria — political, related to stability and development.

"Our discussions with Russia are about containing Syria, so that Syria becomes part of the Arab region. Unfortunately, now, Syria is far [from the Arab fold]. The UAE reopened the embassy to start this process; this will need a role by Arab countries to work together for a [larger] Syria role.”

He added that though “we are far [from this goal] I think there’s an intention and desire [and that] needs hard work by many parties”.

Constitutional committee

Lavrov said Russia was still working on setting up the constitutional committee, which will help Syrians start the political process, which is aimed at restoring Syria’s integrity and sovereignty.

“We understand, the process will not be quick, but it is necessary to continue efforts along with the Syrian government and Turkey,” he said.

The decision to set up a constitutional committee was taken at the Syrian National Dialogue Congress, held in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi on January 30.

The committee is supposed to include representatives from the Syrian government and opposition, as well as civil society members. Former UN envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said not more than 50 people should be part of the committee.

Space cooperation

Meanwhile, Shaikh Abdullah also said UAE and Russia discussed cooperation in space.

“In September, we will see UAE’s first astronaut journey to the International Space Station, and we are looking forward to concluding a number of MoUs in the near future.”

He added that at the International Defence Exhibition (IDEX), Russia was a major participant.

“UAE in cooperation with Russia confronts modern and conventional threats — the fight against trafficking of narcotics, organised crime, money laundering and extremism.

Lavrov said active cooperation between Mubadala and Russia’s investment fund amounted to amounting to $2 billion.