Speech by Federal Minister Heiko Maas at the opening of the UAEs Ambassadors Conference
It is an honour to speak to you in this special year of the Emirates’ 50th anniversary. But instead of resting on your country’s great achievements of the past 50 years, you are asking yourselves “Our Future. What do you see?”
This forward-leaning and forward-looking attitude is the key to your success.
So, allow me to share a few thoughts with you on how I see your future – or should I say our future, because I hope that it will be a joint one.
I see a future inspired by ambition.
A future built on cooperation.
A future that gives hope.
Let me start with “ambition”. Over the past 50 years, you have transformed your country into one of the most cutting-edge places on our planet. Your vision commands deep respect.
The Arab world’s first mission to Mars - led by women and aptly named “Hope” - is an expression of that ambition, but also of far-sighted leadership and effective governance. It reflects the will of the Emirati people to embrace tradition, while opening up to new worlds. You are reaching for the stars, literally, and actually getting there.
The Expo in Dubai will be another stellar opportunity to showcase your vision to the world and to your neighbours in the region.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I also see a future in which the United Arab Emirates can rely on cooperation. We share your view that cooperation is the bedrock of international peace and prosperity.
Today’s Germany, like the United Arab Emirates, is a relatively young state. International support for a reunited Germany was the result of international cooperation, of growing trust in our democracy . Never again would we start a war. Never again would we persecute others for their race or religion. To us, these convictions are existential. This is who we are, who we have become.
The first sentence of our Constitution reads: “Human dignity shall be inviolable. To respect and protect it shall be the duty of all state authority.”
In terms of foreign policy, this means working for global peace and security. To do that, middle powers like us must protect and advance the multilateral system. This is what prevents might from being right. And this is why defending international law and human rights, stability and equality worldwide lies in our interests.
The European Union is a product of that conviction. After centuries of conflicts among its rival states and kingdoms, it became the greatest peace project of our times, the base of our prosperity and our only guarantee of making our voice heard in a world of competing great powers.
So, it’s the idea of greater European unity and global cooperation that leads me to share your optimism about the future. Because joining forces is the only way to overcome the challenges of the future – whether it is digitalisation, globalisation, migration or climate change.
The current range of cooperation between our two countries is already impressive: human development, climate change, environmental protection, food security, humanitarian aid, healthcare, trade, technology, the fight against extremism or the promotion of religious tolerance – the list goes on.
But I see even more potential on the horizon: for instance, we have a lot to learn from each other when it comes to transforming our countries into knowledge economies. And we are ideal partners when it comes to promoting the green energies of the future, such as hydrogen.
So, let me encourage all of you to reach out to your German colleagues, no matter where you are in the world. And I will instruct our diplomats to do the same.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As an Arab poet rightly said: “How tight can life be without the space of hope?”.
The new-found depth and intensity of our partnership is a reason for hope, which opens up new spaces – even beyond our bilateral relations.
The last time we met in person, Sheikh Abdallah, it was together with Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi in Berlin. And we didn’t meet just anywhere. We met at the Holocaust Memorial, the site that reminds us of the murder of Europe’s Jews, committed by Germans. After our visit, you wrote in the Book of Remembrance “To remember and not to forget. To be strong and to promise never again.”
For me personally, this was a very special and moving moment. Because it showed that reconciliation and cooperation are possible.
A new era of cooperation began with the normalisation agreements between Israel and its Arab neighbours that you pioneered. They are truly historic: who would have thought only a year ago that direct flights from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi would even be possible? Or kosher meals in the beautiful hotels of the Emirates?
Ladies and gentlemen, the courage and vision behind those steps could bring hope and progress to the entire region.
This is particularly true with a view to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. It’s my firm belief that without a negotiated two-state solution there will be no lasting peace in the region. So, let us build on the momentum generated by your normalisation and work with both sides towards that goal.
Hope can also be seen in Libya: in the last weeks, we have moved closer to a comprehensive political solution. In the spirit of last year’s Berlin Conference, we must now overcome the remaining obstacles to achieve lasting peace and stability. Germany will continue to contribute to this, by implementing the United Nations’ arms embargo and by driving the Berlin Process forward. And we are counting on your support, which will be crucial.
In Yemen, peace still remains a distant hope. While the people of Yemen continue to suffer, all parties must finally realise that only a political process led by the United Nations can end this war. An immediate cease-fire would be an important first step. We welcome Saudi Arabia’s new initiative in this regard. Providing humanitarian assistance for Yemen will also remain crucial for the foreseeable future. And finally, hard work lies in front of all of us when it comes to reaching a political compromise. Here, we’re also counting on you and on all of Yemen’s neighbours to take bold steps. And we’re offering our full support.
Finally, Iran with its nuclear programme, its expanding missile programme and its aggressive behaviour in the region remains the biggest challenge to regional stability – and a security concern of global dimensions. Our priority remains to make sure that Iran never acquires a military nuclear capacity. All other problems we have with Iran would be multiplied if it were in a position to employ nuclear blackmail.
Having said that: we all share your analysis that regional security will also have to address issues beyond the nuclear threat. We believe that those issues and the interests of the Gulf Cooperation Council could best be addressed through an inclusive and effective regional security dialogue.
Confidence-building measures, as well as steps to enhance transparency and cooperation should be part of this.
Overcoming the political divide in the Gulf is, of course, a very ambitious goal. But the path you chose, the path of ambition, cooperation and hope makes me optimistic for a better future.
So, ladies and gentlemen, what do I see when I look into our future?
The short answer is: I see our partnership deepening. I see two countries working together to address pressing regional and global issues. Patiently, but with determination.
Relying on skilful diplomacy, economic innovation and soft power.
Backing up our policies with the collective strength of multilateral partners.
And I see you, Ambassadors, helping to make this happen.
Shukran - thank you very much.