Updated: March 14, 2022 09:07 IS
By John Solomou
Nicosia [Cyprus] March 14 (ANI): Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has put several states in the Middle East in a very difficult position. On the one hand, they cannot openly condone the aggression and invasion of an independent country by a powerful neighbor, so they must speak out against it (without angering Moscow), and on the other hand, they do not want to jeopardize their mutually beneficial relationship with Russia by imposing sanctions .
So these countries are performing the delicate balancing act of verbally condemning the invasion while refraining from joining the economic and other sanctions imposed by the West on Moscow.
With the exception of Syria and Iran – which supported Russia or blamed NATO for the war – almost all Middle Eastern countries have opposed the United States, the European Union, Canada and the West in general on the issue of imposing sanctions Russia has disappointed and has so far resisted calls to increase oil and gas production to ease the problems Europe is currently facing.
Finland, Latvia, Estonia, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Croatia and the Czech Republic sourced more than two-thirds of their gas from Russia in 2020, while Germany, Austria, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary and Slovenia, according to influential journalism firm Politico sourced more than 40 percent of their gas from Russia.
If Russia cuts gas supplies in retaliation for US and European Union sanctions, all of the above countries will face an enormous energy problem at a time when oil prices are at their highest levels in more than a decade to have .
So Washington and Brussels turned their attention to the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, hoping that those countries and the Organization of the Petroleum Producing Countries (OPEC) as a whole would significantly increase production to meet and sustain Europe’s energy shortages Keep an eye on rising energy prices.
They expected a surprise. OPEC+ countries, including the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have refused to increase production and decided to stick to a deal previously agreed between member states.
Although the UAE is widely regarded as a pro-Western Gulf state, it cooperates closely with Russia, particularly within the framework of OPEC+, which includes Russia alongside the traditional members.
Yousef Al Otaiba, Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates in Washington, said a few days ago that Abu Dhabi supports increases in production. However, Suhail Al Mazrouei, the country’s energy minister, later corrected this statement, stressing that the UAE is committed to the OPEC+ deal and its production adjustment mechanism.
In a surprising balancing act, the UAE abstained on February 25 at the UN Security Council on a resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, while the UAE voted at the UN General Assembly on March 2 for a non-binding and largely symbolic resolution in which Moscow is being asked to withdraw its troops from Ukraine immediately.
Saudi Arabia also said it will not increase oil production to curb soaring oil prices and reiterated that it will stick to the production agreement struck in OPEC+.
According to a Wall Street Journal report, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and UAE leader Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan refused to answer the phone when President Biden tried to call them to discuss boosting oil exports. In contrast, both heads of state took calls from Vladimir Putin and later from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
The Saudis and Emiratis are furious with Biden because they feel the United States didn’t really support them when the Iran-backed Houthis launched missile attacks on targets in the two Gulf states.
In addition, they are concerned that the US government is pushing the Iran nuclear deal without considering the interests of Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
For his part, the Emir of Qatar has taken a lukewarm stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, calling only “restraint on all parties” without blaming Russia.
Also, Qatar argued that it could not increase its LNG production or significantly redirect its LNG exports to Europe as its production is tied to long-term supply deals with Asian countries.
Egypt voted in favor of the US-backed resolution condemning the Russian invasion at the UN General Assembly, but made it clear it is not cutting ties with Moscow. On March 3, Egypt announced that the Suez Canal would not be closed to Russian ships.
Cairo’s main concern is to avoid disrupting shipments of wheat from Russia, on which it depends to feed its 105 million people.
Turkey, which has maintained good relations with Ukraine in recent years, selling it its drones and also maintaining extensive trade relations with Russia, refused to join Western sanctions against Moscow and tried to mediate in the conflict.
On March 10, Turkey hosted the first ministerial-level meeting between Russia and Ukraine in Antalya, between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and their Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu. The meeting ended in failure.
NATO boss Jens Stoltenberg told Cavusoglu unequivocally that the alliance expects sanctions against Russia from all members.
Speaking to CNN International, Turkish Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said: “At the moment we have no plans to impose sanctions on Russia. Because we want to keep the channel of trust open Communication with the Russians open. And of course we don’t want our economy to be affected.”
Finally, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid “condemned the Russian attack on Ukraine as a serious violation of the international order.”
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennet tries to play the role of mediator. On March 5, he flew to Moscow, where he had a three-hour conversation with Vladimir Putin and has since had numerous phone calls with both Putin and Zelenskyy.
Zelenskyy said he was open to peace talks in Jerusalem. So far, Putin has not responded, but it is hoped that these mediation efforts will be more successful than previous ones. (ANI)