23 October 2019, Wednesday, 4:34
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Mysterious Visit Of Arabian Sheikh

Mysterious Visit Of Arabian Sheikh
PHOTO: REUTERS

The relations of Belarus with the United Arab Emirates appear rather odd.

Minsk was first visited by the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Deputy Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the UAE Armed Forces, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan.

Outwardly, relations of Belarus with the United Arab Emirates appear rather odde. This country has the status of a close friend, an important partner, although, at the first glance, there are no obvious reasons for this. The UAE is a rich country, thanks to a large oil reserve, but not to say that it is very influential. There is no ideological proximity.

The economic cooperation remains at a rather low level. In 2018, mutual trade turnover amounted to $ 72.3 million, of which 58 million accounted for Belarusian exports, 14.3 million - for imports. This is quite a bit. Last year, Belarus received $ 44 million of foreign direct investment from the UAE on a net basis. 27 organizations with the participation of emirate capital are registered here. This is not bad, but not enough to give this country such extreme attention.

The attention is really extraordinary. It should be noted that the Arab guest was received in Belarus at the level at which the heads of state are received during official visits: with an orchestra that performed national anthems, a carpet, an honor guard. Although the sheikh, by tradition, should only become the future president of the UAE. The talks between the hereditary prince and Lukashenka were attended by Foreign Minister Uladzimir Makei, Lukashenka’s national security assistant Viktar Lukashenka, First Deputy Prime Minister Aliaksanr Turchyn. The reception level seems way too high given the guest’s status.

It should be noted that, according to the Belarusian independent media, this particular UAE activist owns the company, which, by the decree of Lukashenka, acquired two hectares of hunting grounds near Lahoisk.

Lukashenka visited the UAE six times. Moreover, the last three voyages lasted at least a week. In 2014, it was even reported that the team of the ruler of Belarus had a hockey match with the “team of UAE hockey veterans” (!). In 2017, Lukashenka’s trip lasted a record 12 days, and this was the longest stay of the ruler outside Belarus. And by the way, he, as a rule, met there with the same Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan. That is, they have pretty good personal relationships.

It is no secret that the UAE is a long-standing consumer of defense industry products in Belarus. It is no accident that Lukashenka’s national security assistant Viktar Lukashenka regularly travel there with some delicate missions.

There was information in the media that BelTechExport FZE, a BelTechExport subsidiary established by the Belarusian oligarch Uladzimir Peftsiyeu in Abu Dhabi, signed a contract with the UAE Armed Forces in 2017 for servicing military equipment worth about $ 30 million. Automotive equipment, weapon guidance systems, and optics were supplied to the United Arab Emirates. Belarus provides assistance to the UAE in the production of unmanned aircraft and light wheeled armored vehicles.

There is a suspicion that this arms trade is not reflected in the official statistics. The fact that money from the arms trade does not go to the state treasury was recognized in 2007 by the Minister of Finance of Belarus Mikalai Korbut, as he answered questions from “deputies” in the “parliament”. Lukashenka himself was forced to admit the same thing during the “presidential election campaign” in 2006, when one of the candidates, Aliaksandr Kazulin, accused the ruler of appropriating these funds and asked the question: “Where is the money, Alex?” And Lukashenka was forced to make excuses, to prove that he sent this money to modernize the armaments for the Belarusian army, as well as to support the banking system, the construction of social facilities.

Perhaps this explains the contradiction between Lukashenka’s very friendly relations with Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, and the modest official indicators of economic relations.

Valer Karbalevich, Radio Svaboda