With ever changing geo-political realities the need for new allies is constantly rising. New allies can signify a range of new possibilities for cooperation, development, and mutual exchange. In the Middle East, this can mean looking at countries in the region who with collaboration have unforeseen potential for growth and profit. More specifically, two countries in the region that can immensely benefit from increased political and economic cooperation with one another are the United Arab Emirates and Armenia.
Politically, the UAE is looking towards diversifying its allies in the region especially as the United States has retreated from the Middle East (Maksad, 2022, para. 4). The United States’ retreat has left a power vacuum that the UAE is eager to fill in order to become a stronger player in the region and globally. Armenia has a lot to gain from these changing geopolitical realities if they strengthen their political relationship with the UAE. The Gulf state can increase Yerevan’s diplomatic and political significance in the region (Meneshian, 2020, para. 2). Having Armenia as an ally can also benefit the UAE by expanding their economic and political influence into the South Caucasus’ and beyond (para. 12).
The UAE and Armenia also share security issues with one another when it comes to Turkey’s revisionist policies in the wider region (para. 13). The UAE is looking to prevent Turkey’s efforts at achieving regional hegemony. They already have strong ties with Egypt, Eastern Libya, Syria and Greece, all countries that are considered antagonists to Turkey. Armenia can expand their informal anti-Turkish coalition and prevent Turkey’s goals in the region even further (para. 12). A UAE-Armenia alliance can shift the balance of power in Yerevan’s favour and lessen the threat of pan-Turkish nationalism (para. 21).
Developing good relations with the UAE can be a turning point in building diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia as well. Both countries have become influential actors and have increasingly cooperated with one another during the past decade (Calabrese, 2022, para. 1). However, there has also been an increase in competitiveness between Saudi Arabia and the UAE as they are both pushing to diversify their economies and their political allies (para. 3-6). Since both countries are pursuing the same goals, there is an overlap in their strategies causing stiff competition (para. 13). Armenia can use this new political and economic reality to its advantage especially now that there have been overtures by the Saudi government towards Yerevan (Armenia and Saudi Arabia emphasize giving a push to trade and economic ties, 2022, para. 1).
The UAE and Armenia also have converging interests when it comes to Iran. The Emirates have been shifting their approach and policies towards Iran in recent years (Barhouma, 2022, para. 1). They have been focused on improving relations for security and economic reasons with its regional rival (para. 7). The goal is to enhance communication, diplomatic efforts and avoid confrontation (para. 5). The UAE is adopting a rational approach when it comes to dealing with Iran in order to increase trade between both countries, which is already growing (para. 12). Armenia can help further increase trade in the region by building the North-South Transport Corridor. This new transport link between Armenia, Iran, and Georgia will boost trade connectivity between the three countries and in the wider region as well (South-North Corridor Top Priority in Iran-Armenia Ties: Minister, 2022, para. 6). Thus, this new corridor can be useful to the UAE since it would enlarge the market for its exports.
Both the UAE and Iran have shown interest in joining the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), which Armenia is already a part of (Devonshire-Ells, 2021, para. 1 & Mikovic, 2021, para. 1). Joining the EAEU for Iran means it can avoid some of the costs imposed by US sanctions and have access to a wider market to export its goods (Mikovic, 2021, para. 4-5). For the UAE, this means they can export their goods to Russia through Armenia and avoid the sanctions imposed on Moscow due to the war in Ukraine (Anne-Aarup & Gallardo, 2022, para. 12). The free trade agreement under the EAEU, and the new transport link through Armenia will significantly change the geopolitical reality for all countries involved. The economic and political benefits will transform the Middle East.
There are multiple projects that Armenia and the UAE can develop and enact. The UAE is currently training a number of women peacekeepers with the goal of strengthening and maintaining international peace and security (Al Sayegh, 2021, para. 2). The program trains women to sustain peace in volatile and unstable environments (para. 3). Yerevan can request to take part in the program and have trained Armenian women peacekeepers provide security in the disputed border regions between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Economically, sustainable green energy is an area of common interest and development between the Emirates and Armenia. There has been interest by Emirati companies developing solar and wind energy in Armenia. The wind farms can reduce the price of electricity, diversify Armenia’s energy sector, and provide jobs to less developed regions far from the city center (UAE-registered Access Infra Central Asia Ltd plans to invest $ 150 million in construction of a wind farm in Armenia, 2017, para. 4). The investment in solar plants by the Abu Dhabi based company Masdar will result in the same benefits (UAE Firm to Build Large Solar Power Plant in Armenia, 2021, para. 5). Masdar’s chief executive, Mohamed Jameel Al Rahami, made known that “This is a vital stage in Armenia’s clean energy journey: low-cost solar energy will help power new industries, generate jobs and set the country on the path to a prosperous and truly sustainable future”.
The UAE can also invest in Armenia’s developing sustainable agriculture industry. Agriculture is a very significant sector of the Armenian economy, but it needs improvements in efficiency to be competitive in the world market (Armenia-Agricultural Sector, 2019, para. 1). There is demand for these agricultural products which has led Armenian producers increasing production. The UAE, as a possible foreign investor, can be attracted by an agriculture industry producing ecologically friendly and green agricultural products that has incredible potential (para. 2-3).
Finally, the UAE in the next 50 years, in envisioning on becoming a hub for leading technology (Future-The Official Portal of the UAE Government, n.d.). One of the notable sectors they are interested in developing is artificial intelligence. By 2071, they want government services, sectors, and infrastructure projects to rely on AI to increase performance and efficiency. There are currently more than thirty companies that operate in Armenia creating products using AI (Mirzoyan, 2022, para. 1). Ninety-five percent of the products that are manufactured in Armenia are exported and targeted to overseas markets (para. 2). However, there is a great need for scientists in this field and there is a current lack of post-graduate programs in Armenia (para. 4). A partnership between both countries to build a new specialized school would be instrumental (para. 6). This school would be able to train Armenian and Emirati talent to meet the demands of the industry as the UAE is also struggling to find the necessary talent (Glover, 2022, para. 1-2). This partnership can develop the necessary technology to usher both countries into a new sustainable AI led era.
The opportunities for collaboration between Armenia and the United Arab Emirates are endless. From creating new allies, handling difficult security issues, developing better relations with regional neighbours; such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, increasing trade connectivity, enlarging export markets, training women peacekeepers, investing in sustainable green energy and agriculture all the way to creating new graduate programs for developing AI technology. Once both countries start developing their relations further, they will see improvements in these various spheres that will increase their standing in the region and globally.
By Gassia Minassian
Al Sayegh, A. (2021). UAE Statement “2021 Seoul UN Peacekeeping Ministerial”. Retrieved from https://peacekeeping.un.org/sites/default/files/uae.pdf
Anne-Aarup, S. & Gallardo, C. (2022, June 21). Smugglers’ secrets: How Russia can beat EU sanctions. POLITICO. Retrieved from https://www.politico.eu
Armenia and Saudi Arabia emphasize giving a push to trade and economic ties. (2022). Retrieved from https://arka.am/en/news/politics/armenia_and_saudi_arabia_emphasize_giving_a_push_to_trade_and_economic_ties/
Barhouma, M. (2022). The Reshaping of UAE Foreign Policy and Geopolitical Strategy. Retrieved from https://carnegieendowment.org/sada/86130
Calabrese, J. (2022). The “New Normal” in Saudi-UAE Relations—Tying China In. Retrieved from https://www.mei.edu/publications/new-normal-saudi-uae-relations-tying-china
Devonshire-Ells, C. (2021). Russia and UAE to Discuss EAEU Free Trade Agreement. Retrieved from https://www.russia-briefing.com/news/russia-and-uae-to-discuss-eaeu-free-trade-agreement.html/
Future-The Official Portal of the UAE Government. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://u.ae/en/about-the-uae/uae-future
Glover, F. (2022). UAE salaries: which tech jobs are in demand and how much do they pay? Retrieved from https://www.thenationalnews.com/business/money/2022/04/28/uae-salaries-which-tech-jobs-are-in-demand-and-how-much-do-they-pay/
International Trade Administration. (2019). Armenia-Agricultural Sector. Retrieved from https://www.export.gov/apex/article2?id=Armenia-agribusiness
Maksad, F. (2022, March 21). A Crisis in U.S.-Middle East Relations. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from https://www.wsj.com
Meneshian, G. (2020). The reasons behind the Armenia-UAE alliance. Retrieved from https://middle-east-online.com/en/reasons-behind-armenia%E2%80%93uae-alliance
Mikovic, N. (2021). Iran wants to join the Eurasian Economic Union—but will Russia allow it? Retrieved from https://www.arabnews.com/node/1816451
Mirzoyan, A. (2022). Armenia’s AI Sector Services Overseas Market, Says YerevanNN Research Lab Director. Retrieved from https://hetq.am/en/article/140608
South-North Corridor Top Priority in Iran-Armenia Ties: Minister. (2022). Retrieved from https://www.tasnimnews.com/en/news/2022/03/04/2676217/south-north-corridor-top-priority-in-iran-armenia-ties-minister
UAE Firm to Build Large Solar Power Plant in Armenia. (2021). Retrieved from https://www.azatutyun.am/a/31343785.html
UAE-registered Access Infra Central Asia Ltd plans to invest $150 million in construction of a wind farm in Armenia. (2017). Retrieved from http://arka.am/en/news/technology/uae_registered_access_infra_central_asia_ltd_plans_to_invest_150_million_in_construction_of_a_wind_f/