World and UAE leaders not on speaking terms – media

The heads of the Gulf nations haven’t communicated in more than six months, sources told the Wall Street Journal

A rift has emerged between Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and the president of the United Arab Emirates, as the Gulf monarchies compete for dominance in the Middle East, the Wall Street Journal has reported.

Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS, and his former mentor Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, often referred to as MBZ, haven’t spoken to each other for more than six months, the US outlet claimed on Tuesday, citing people familiar with the matter.

According to the WSJ, the two royals “are now feuding over who calls the shots in a Middle East where the US plays a diminished role.”

An unnamed senior Biden administration official, who spoke with the outlet, described MBS and MBZ as “two highly ambitious people, who want to be key players in the region and the go-to players.”

“On some level they still collaborate. Now, neither seems comfortable with the other being on the same pedestal. On balance, it’s not helpful to us for them to be at each other’s throats,” the official said.

According to the report, the neighbors are split on a number of issues, including the conflict in Yemen and policies pursued by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), of which both are key members.

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The UAE is also reportedly increasingly unhappy with bin Salman’s efforts to lure Western companies from Dubai to Riyadh, as the Saudi leader is working to reduce the dependence of his country’s economy from oil exports.

According to the WSJ, citing Gulf officials, bin Zayed Al Nahyan privately told Mohammed bin Salman in late 2022 that his moves were undermining relations between the two countries. He accused MBS of getting too close to Russia when it comes to oil policies, and pursuing risky diplomatic endeavors without consulting with allies, such as his rapprochement with long-time rival Iran, the sources added.

The outlet reported that MBS held an off-the-record briefing for local journalists in December, telling them that the UAE has “stabbed us in the back.”

MBS reportedly warned that he was ready to take punitive measures against the smaller Gulf nation if it keeps resisting Saudi Arabia. “It will be worse than what I did with Qatar,” he allegedly told journalists. The purported remark referred to the events of 2017, when Riyadh severed diplomatic ties with Doha and imposed a three-year economic blockade on Qatar, with help from the UAE.

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However, both Saudi Arabia and the Emirates denied any tensions between them when approached by WSJ for comment. A Saudi official insisted that the report was “simply not accurate,” while a representative of the UAE government said the claims were “categorically false and lack foundation.” Both officials stressed that Riyadh and Abu Dhabi were “strategic partners,” united by a common economic, security and political agenda.

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