New Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to Armenia Mohamed AlZaabi says he feels very good by seeing the warm hospitality and smiles of Armenians.
The UAE Ambassador gave an interview to ARMENPRESS, talking about the current level of the relations between Armenia and UAE, the vision on their future, as well as new cooperation directions.
-Mr. Ambassador, how would you assess the current level of the Armenia-UAE relations?
-The United Arab Emirates has very good relations with different countries of the world. The bilateral relations of the UAE and Armenia are unique and we witness their development in recent years. A lot of works have been carried out after the opening of the UAE Embassy in Armenia in 2015, a number of agreements have been signed, and I think that the first session of the inter-governmental commission will take place in May in Armenia which proves the constant cooperation between the businessmen of the two states. This session will provide an opportunity of contacts between the Armenian and UAE businessmen, as well as special meetings are possible with different representatives of the government. Armenia’s foreign ministry attaches special attention to strengthening the cooperation between the two countries in different areas. Armenian President Armen Sarkissian’s visit to the UAE and his participation to the Sustainability Week in Abu Dhabi this year in January were successful and gave a great impetus to intensifying the ties in different fields. The visit of Armenian defense minister Davit Tonoyan to the UAE and participation to the IDEX 2019 international defense exhibition, as well as the wonderful performance of the Armenian Guards of Honor, which was a message to the whole world, are worth mentioning.
I am here for already one and half a month and everywhere noticed hospitality, smiles by the people, which come from your grandfathers, and I feel very good here.
-What are the recent economic developments trends? What can you say about the trade turnover figures between the two states?
-After the opening of the UAE Embassy in Armenia, activeness is noticed in different areas, in particular in the economy. The trade turnover figures prove this: if before the opening of the Embassy in 2014 the trade turnover between the two states was just 80 million USD, in 2017 it reached 250 million and in 2018 – nearly 180 million. I think the trade turnover figures will grow in 2019 as well.
In the past four years the cooperation of the two countries focused on opening new prospects in different areas. For example, the fields of investments, economy, artificial intelligence, new energy are worth noting. I know that Armenia is famous in the field of information technologies, medicine where cooperation is also possible. I think after the first session of the inter-governmental commission our relations will further develop in various sectors.
-In previous years growth in the tourist visits from the UAE to Armenia has been recorded. In your opinion, what factors contributed to this, and what cooperation prospects do you see in this field in the future?
-The direct air communication between the two countries enables to develop the tourism sector. During my meetings with the tour agencies I understood that there is a great interest, and Armenians visit the UAE very frequently. According to the official data of 2018 nearly 11.500 UAE citizens visited Armenia.
-There were some talks on the UAE’s active participation in several areas in Armenia, mainly the hotel construction works. What preconditions do you see on this direction. Are investment programs from the UAE to Armenia possible in the future?
-There is a cooperation opportunity in different areas, including in this sector. Armenia has quite good hotels, and I think that the tour companies play a great role here for attracting foreign tourists.
-Mr. Ambassador, Dubai Expo will be held in the UAE in 2020. At what stage are the preparation works? What will be the main focus of this event? How is going to be Armenia’s participation format to the event?
-Dubai Expo 2020 is a large-scale international event which will strengthen Dubai’s position as a global center by involving the economic opportunities.
We welcome Armenia’s participation to this key event. Armenia is among the first countries that confirmed participation to this international exhibition which will provide a great space for the display of clean energy by using the latest technology, as well as importing the artificial intelligence to this field. More than 200 participants, including 190 countries, have confirmed their participation to the event where the international community will meet in Dubai for the sake of innovation and human progress. We expect to have 25 million visitors which is a very big number. Major preparation works are being carried out in these six months. New metro stations to the Expo’s square are being constructed, and the 70-80% of the Road 2020 project’s overall works is already over. It was planned that the station of the Expo 2020 was going to look like a wings of plane, symbolizing innovation and progress. People sometimes think that this is just for trade, but this is for generations aimed at transferring the modern technology. The UAE is ready to host the Expo visitors, and I think that ARMENPRESS will be included in this event as the first news agency.
-The United Arab Emirates has declared 2019 as a year for tolerance. What are the expectations from this initiative and what is its main message?
-This initiative aims at strengthening the UAE’s status as a world center through several major initiatives and projects for tolerance, including the research investments, social and cultural research on tolerance, and dialogue of cultures and civilizations. It aims at presenting a legislation and policy directed to the institutionalization of cultural, religious and social tolerance values and eventually contributing to spreading tolerance through media outlets. The main message of the initiative is to spread tolerance values across the world.
-The Special Olympic Games 2019 were held in Abu Dhabi, athletes with intellectual disabilities from different countries of the world are taking part. To what extent this event will contribute to increasing attention and support level to these people in the region?
-Abu Dhabi hosted the Special Olympic Games from March 14 to 21 this year. It was the biggest event of the disabled athletes throughout the world. The number of participants was reaching 7500. The holding and organization of the Special Olympic Games coincides with the UAE’s 2021 vision which aims at developing the community by focusing on the persons with intellectual disabilities enabling them to be integrated into the society and play an active role by using their opportunities and potential.
The participation of Pope Francis to this important event was a message to the world that there should be tolerance and that Christianity and Islam are religions for tolerance. There are 202 different nations in the Emirates. UAE has visa-free regime with 169 countries. The UAE is considered one of the first countries in the list of states providing foreign humanitarian aid and charity.
-Let’s talk a little about the Masdar City which is also called as the future’s eco city. Masdar is an example of city development, and what do you think to what extent this model can be spread in other countries? What will it give to the states?
-Masdar is the first city in the world where there are no carbon and waste, and it’s the first city which is completely operating with solar energy. There is cooperation with many countries in the field of solar energy, and we are ready to cooperate also with the Armenian government.
Masdar city is in the United Arab Emirates, near the Abu Dhabi airport. This is the first city as such in the world.
-The technological and educational complex of Masdar creates new prospects for the students of different states, including Armenia. Currently some Armenians are included in these programs. What cooperation prospects do you see here?
-The UAE and in particular Masdar encourage the students of Armenia to study at Masdar’s institute of science and technology, which is a highest educational facility aimed at research of solar energy, sustainability and environment. A Zayed Award for sustainability is being held in the UAE. My message to the Armenian students is to present good projects, innovative programs in order to receive this award.
-Mr. Ambassador, it seems the artificial intelligence becomes the brain of the industrial revolution. Many countries are taking serious steps to develop this direction. What steps does the UAE take? If I am not mistaken, the first minister in the history to deal with the development of artificial intelligence has been appointed.
-Yes, in October 2018 Omar Bin Sultan Al Olama has been appointed as minister for artificial intelligence and thus the UAE became the first state in the world which has a minister specifically for artificial intelligence. The UAE hopes to play a leading role in the artificial intelligence research and develop innovation.
The minister for artificial intelligence has a great vision for the future. After 47 years of the foundation of the UAE we are attaching great attention to the right education and it is thanks to this that we have a minister for artificial intelligence who is going to build the future. Artificial intelligence is one of the most important elements in the person’s life in his creativity. Soon we will see that a robot flies a plane, as well as will work instead of a villager. We have educated cadres in the IT field, and my mission is to try to transform our experience to this country. Armenia is famous in the field of medicine, and I will soon visit medical facilities not only in Yerevan, but also in provinces.
-Recently you have handed over a letter of gratitude to the Director of ARMENPRESS state news agency. What cooperation prospects do you see in media field?
-ARMENPRESS is a famous news agency in the world, and you are addressing a message of love and solidarity to the world through your agency. I see that you cover the most important events taking place in different countries of the world and would like to thank the agency staff.
That letter of gratitude has been handed over to Mr. Aram Ananyan to appreciate his efforts for the cooperation with the Embassy in recent years. The agency deserves more. The former ambassador established strong ties for the cooperation, and I am here to continue the work of my colleague.
Media outlets are key source for public awareness and thinking formation which in its turn affects the public thinking. In line with forming political and public opinion, media play an important role in the development of states and human societies.
Interview by Ani Danielyan
Photos by Mkhitar Khachatryan
Edited and translated by Aneta Harutyunyan