The UAE is today celebrating the 88th Saudi National Day, which falls on 23rd September, through a range of events and activities that will witness popular demand and official participation.
This year’s celebration reflects the developments that have enabled Saudi Arabia to maintain its leading role in serving Arab and Islamic issues.
Saudi Arabia began a new era of development, which includes structural reforms to many social and economic areas and is highlighted by the predictions of the International Monetary Fund, IMF, regarding the two percent growth to its economy and a 160 percent trade balance increase.
The kingdom is also implementing its Vision 2030, which aims to reduce its dependency on oil by 50 percent, through launching infrastructure projects in the sectors of electricity, energy, roads, water, transportation, construction and tourism.
The UAE’s celebration and its official and popular participation in the Saudi National Day reflect the deep relations between the two countries, which exceed the concept of bilateral cooperation between two neighbouring countries, but has become a strategic partnership, in line with their historical ties supported by blood, legacy and a common fate.
The relationship between the two countries is a stabilising force in dealing with the challenges and risks threatening Arab and Gulf security and the hurdles to achieving security, development and stability, which is highlighted by their efforts to deal with the situation in Yemen and the issues with Iran.
Both countries have acquired significant international confidence, as their policies are characterised by wisdom and moderation when facing extremism and terrorism, and have encouraged dialogue between cultures and civilisations.
The relations between the two countries were established by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and King Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who were keen to strengthen them and continue their ongoing coordination and cooperation on regional and international issues.
The bilateral relations between the UAE and Saudi Arabia have achieved important strategic successes during the last decade, to become an ideal model of Arab relations, and an example of mutual awareness of the nature of regional and international developments and the necessity of addressing them with consistent policies. The Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, expressed this conviction during the historic visit of King Salman bin Abdulaziz, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, to the UAE on 6th December 2016. "The relations between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the UAE have exceeded the level of diplomatic relations and is more like the relationship between the arm and the back. We are asking Allah Almighty to protect this body," His Highness tweeted on his twitter account.
The UAE believes that Saudi Arabia is a stabilising force and is a protector against all threats and plans that aim to divide Arab countries, which was clearly expressed by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, during the same historic visit, when he said, "The UAE has always believed that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a pillar of the Arab and Gulf regions, and its security and stability also ensures the security and stability of the UAE and other Gulf Cooperation Council, GCC, and Arab countries."
His Highness Sheikh Mohamed added that Arab history will always remember the historic stance of King Salman and his efforts to counter foreign interference in the Arab region.
The bilateral ties between the UAE and Saudi Arabia have witnessed progress, which reflects the keenness of their leadership to institutionalise their relations, through the establishment of a "Joint Supreme Committee" in May 2014, led by the ministers of foreign affairs of both countries. This committee is responsible for implementing the strategic vision of their leadership, to achieve greater security and stability in facing regional challenges, as part of a coherent and robust entity.
In May 2016, both countries signed an agreement to establish a joint coordination council, which aims to coordinate and consult on various topics of mutual interest. The agreement also stipulates that the council will hold regular meetings in both countries.
As part of establishing the council, 'Al Azm Retreat' was held over two meetings. The first meeting took place on 21st February 2017, in Abu Dhabi, with the participation of over 150 government officials and many experts from the government and private sectors of both countries, who discussed ways of implementing the articles of the agreement and establishing a roadmap for cooperation and integration.
The second meeting took place on 13th April, 2017, in Riyadh, and discussed the mechanisms of strengthening the integrated economic system of the two countries, and finding innovative solutions to utilising existing resources in a range of sectors, such as infrastructure, housing, foreign partnerships, production, industry, agriculture, water, services, financial markets, logistics, oil, gas, petrochemicals, the youth, government development, government services, entrepreneurship, tourism, renewable energy, customs and joint markets.
In June 2018, the UAE and Saudi Arabia advanced their bilateral ties to unprecedented levels, to include a joint vision of economic, development and military integration through 44 joint strategic projects, as part of the "Al Azm Strategy," which was planned over 12 months by 350 officials from 139 government, private and military authorities from both countries.
The bilateral relations between the two countries have also helped to improve the security and stability of the region and the entire world, especially as their histories are full of examples of settling Arab conflicts, such as the demonstrations witnessed by Bahrain in 2011, when they sent the 'Peninsula Shield Forces' to the country, in light of the security and defence agreement signed by GCC countries, which contributed to maintaining the security and stability of Bahrain.
Both countries also play a significant role in maintaining the coherence of the GCC Council. The UAE and Saudi Arabia, along with Bahrain and Egypt, decided, on 5th June 2017, to cut their diplomatic ties with Qatar, after the failure of all diplomatic attempts to convince Qatar to end its recent policies that threaten regional and international security and stability.
The UAE and Saudi Arabia have highlighted Iran’s disruptive role and its plans to threaten the security and stability of the region, as confirmed by the outcomes of the Gulf-American Summit and the Arab Islamic American Summit held in Riyadh in May 2017.
The Arab Coalition supporting the legitimate Yemen government, led by Saudi Arabia and supported by the UAE and other countries in the region, began a new history of the region, through their efforts to restore legitimacy in Yemen and defeat foreign plans to seize the country.
Both countries also contributed to the regional and international efforts to combat extremism and terrorism, by participating in the global coalition, led by the United States, US, against Daesh in 2014. They also play key roles in combatting cultural and intellectual extremism, which are appreciated by the international community.
The trade and economic relations between the UAE and Saudi are the largest among GCC countries, and the UAE is a key trading partner of Saudi Arabia in the Arab region and the GCC. The value of their trade exchange reached around AED88.3 billion in 2017. The UAE tops the list of Gulf countries that export to Saudi Arabia and occupies a leading position in the similar list of top ten countries around the world.
The joint investments between the two countries have also contributed to their bilateral relations. The value of Saudi investments in the UAE exceed AED35 billion, and around 2,366 Saudi companies and 66 commercial agency registered at the Ministry of Economy are operating in the UAE. There are also 206 Saudi projects in the UAE while the number of joint Emirati-Saudi projects is 114 industrial and service projects, valued at SAR15 billion while the value of Emirati investments in Saudi Arabia is over US$9 billion.
The launch of "King Abdullah Economic City," at a cost exceeding SAR100 billion, is an important achievement in the economic relations between the two countries. The "Emirati-Saudi Group of Companies," led by the" Emirati Emaar," was also formed to implement the "Red Sea Coast Project."
Economic analysts predict that integrating the Saudi and UAE economies will create an economic entity with a GDP of around $1.1 trillion. In 2017, the GDP of Saudi Arabia reached SAR2.57 trillion ($685 billion) while the UAE's GDP reached AED1.49 trillion ($407.2 billion).
Tourism between the two countries play a crucial role in strengthening their trade and economic relations, and is among the most promising sectors that provide investment opportunities and attract joint projects, which will diversify their economic and trade activities, primarily as the UAE has allocated large amounts of money to develop this sector in the coming decades.
The cultural ties between the two countries reflect the geographic and social links between their peoples, and are being reinforced in many sectors, such as the education sector, which has witnessed Emirati students travelling to Saudi Arabia to enrol in schools in Mecca, Al Ehssa and Riyadh while Emirati universities and academic institutions have received many Saudi students.
These cultural relations are also highlighted by many joint cultural agreements and programmes and the links between cultural institutions, academics and intellectuals from both countries, as well as their collective vision, historic relations and shared cultural, social, geographic and economic heritage.