The United Arab Emirates on Tuesday announced it has formed “a new economic and partnership group” that is a “joint cooperation committee” with Saudi Arabia, separate from the Gulf Cooperation Council, in a move that further emphasizes Saudi-UAE alignment amid a diplomatic crisis with member state Qatar.
The Emirati Foreign Ministry announcement was made just hours ahead of a GCC meeting in Kuwait, where Qatar’s emir was set to attend the meetings. The new joint cooperation committee was approved by the UAE’s ruler and president, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nayhan. At the time of announcement, Saudi Arabia had not commented on the new alliance.
While it is unclear as to how much the new alliance will effect the larger GCC alliance, the move highlights how the two countries have cultivated even-closer ties in recent years.
Saudi’s leaders hope that the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 economic and social reform plan will place the Kingdom’s cities in league with Dubai and Abu Dhabi as models for a more open society with vibrant entertainment options and better infrastructure.
The two nations have grown closer on defense ties, too. Emirati troops are deeply involved in the Saudi-led war in Yemen and in the imposition of the blockade of neighboring Qatar.
On a personal level, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his Emirati counterpart, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, forged a personal bond over an overnight camping trip in the vast Saudi desert roughly two years ago, according to a Wall Street Journal report. “The outing about a year and a half ago, equivalent to a round of presidential golf, was a turning point in the burgeoning friendship between Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the son of the Saudi king, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Emirati crown prince,” the WSJ reported in June.