Ambassador Ahmed ALNUAIMI: "I am fortunate to be posted to Georgia during this dynamic period of emerging relations between UAE and this strategically significant nation"

Ahmed Ebrahim Ahmed Taher ALNUAIMI
13.03.2024 (Caucasian Journal)It is an honour for Caucasian Journal today to welcome His Excellency Ahmed Ebrahim Ahmed Taher ALNUAIMI, the Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to Georgia.  

Alexander KAFFKA, editor-in-chief of Caucasian Journal: Your Excellency, welcome to Caucasian Journal, and thank you for finding time for our readers. Your ambassadorial term in Georgia started about a year ago, if I am correct. Probably you have already got substantial local experience. May I start by asking about your brightest moments in Georgia – maybe something unexpected, emotional, or even funny?

Ahmed ALNUAIMI: Serving as the Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to Georgia has been a rewarding experience, affording me the opportunity to play a pivotal role in fostering collaboration between our two nations. My tenure so far here has been an extremely positive experience. The gracious hospitality extended to me by the Georgian people has made an indelible mark on my diplomatic mission.

Moreover, I have been impressed by the culinary delights that Georgia offers, and the scenic beauty of the country has been a continuous source of awe and inspiration throughout my work here. 

In addition to these elements, I have been deeply impressed by the rich traditions of tolerance ingrained in Georgian culture and history. The spirit of acceptance and coexistence has played a significant role in shaping the nation's identity, fostering a harmonious society that embraces diversity. These values resonate strongly with those of the UAE, a nation home to a diverse population representing more than 200 nationalities, and multiple cultures and religious backgrounds. Consequently, I am convinced that our countries will sustain a friendly and rewarding collaboration, achieving mutual success in the future.

AK: Can you tell us also a bit more about yourself, your background? 

AA: My diplomatic career commenced in 2007 when I assumed a position within the Economic Affairs Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the UAE. Preceding my present appointment, I held the position of Deputy Permanent Representative of the UAE to the United Nations and International Organizations in Vienna. Additionally, my professional career encompasses notable roles within the Department of Arab Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, service at the UAE Embassy in Brazil, and active participation in the UAE Lobbying Team for securing the hosting of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

Each of these distinguished roles has played an instrumental part in shaping the depth of knowledge and expertise that I bring to bear in my current responsibilities as the Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to Georgia.

AK: Can you summarize how Georgia is generally viewed from the Emirates, and was the appointment to Georgia a surprise for you?

AA: Georgia plays a pivotal role as a connecting point between Europe and Asia, with its seaports serving as hubs for the entirety of the Caucasus region. Georgia's significance extends beyond geographical considerations; it encompasses the economic opportunities inherent in the region, making it an attractive destination for both Emirati investors and tourists.

Over the past five decades, the UAE has steadfastly worked to strengthen international partnerships, fostering a rapid evolution to enhance the competitiveness and sustainability of its economy. Our foreign policy is strategically focused on supporting long-term economic prosperity for the region and beyond.  

Our deep and distinguished relations with all countries reflect our values rooted in openness, partnership, building bridges, and working towards achieving peace and common interests globally. Our policy is marked by significant balance and dynamism, underpinned by a steadfast commitment to adherence to international law and respect for the sovereignty of states. This has strengthened our international position and positioned us as a reliable political and economic partner.

The UAE believes in the importance of communication and dialogue as a necessity to strengthen and develop constructive relations that serve our national interests. Against this backdrop, I find myself particularly fortunate to be posted to Georgia during this dynamic period of emerging relations between the UAE and this strategically significant nation. The evolving dynamics present a wealth of opportunities, and I am dedicated to furthering collaborative efforts that will fortify the ties between our two nations in pursuit of mutual prosperity and shared goals.

The preliminary data for the year 2023 revealed a six percent increase in total non-oil trade between the two countries. Additionally, there was an 18.9 percent upswing in the number of tourists visiting Georgia from the UAE.

AK: We are glad to see an increase of business and investment activities of between UAE and Georgia, in particular after signing the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) last October. CEPA is expected to accelerate capital flow into high-priority sectors, such as tourism, retail, logistics, and manufacturing, and expected to boost non-oil trade value beyond $1.5 bn in the next five years. How do you assess its implementation?

AA: The CEPA was signed against the backdrop of rapidly advancing trade and investment ties between the UAE and Georgia. The preliminary data for the year 2023 revealed a six percent increase in total non-oil trade between the two countries. Additionally, there was an 18.9 percent upswing in the number of tourists visiting Georgia from the UAE. Notably, in a historic milestone for trade relations, preliminary reports indicate imports reached USD 15 million, which represented an increase of 45.8%.

These substantial advancements underscore the robust and growing economic relationship between our nations. As part of a long-term strategy to diversify its economic links and develop strong international partnerships across trade, industry, and investment, the UAE has initiated several CEPAs with strategic partners, including with Georgia.

The UAE firmly believes that the future of regional security relies on strong multilateral partnerships and a shared commitment to achieving stability and prosperity through peaceful political and economic means. CEPAs will continue to pave the way for greater opportunities for the region’s peoples, opening doors to vital economic development across the Middle East. These agreements promise to shorten trade routes and increase the ease of doing business throughout the region and in other markets such as Europe and Asia, as well as Africa and Latin America.

Furthermore, CEPAs are formulated to promote economic opportunities built around digital and traditional trade. Goods traded by sea, road, and air enjoy faster, easier access, unlocking the untapped potential of digital trade, cross-border data flows, and blockchain. These agreements are not only beneficial for the UAE but also for our partners.

The UAE, being a trading nation, has always realized the imperative of prosperity and the free flow of goods and services as a central tenet of any modern, peaceful, forward-looking nation. CEPAs are simply the latest step in this journey. Over the past 50 years, the UAE has rapidly transformed into a fully diversified modern economy, now serving as a hub for trade and logistics. The vision for the next 50 years is to make the UAE a global capital of investment and economic creativity, encompassing an integrated incubator for entrepreneurship, emerging projects, and new economic opportunities.

AK: Is it true that UAE is already the sixth-largest global investor in Georgia, especially in the real estate sector? In your view, is there anything that must be done to make Georgia even more attractive destination for investors from the Emirates? Do you know of any problems that the investors might have faced?

AA: The UAE is one of the first countries in the region to initiate significant and diversified investments in Georgia, commencing in 2006. The commitment to these investments has resulted in the allocation of funds exceeding an estimated USD 1 billion, underscoring the UAE’s position as the largest investor from the Gulf region in Georgia. 

The implemented investment projects encompass diverse sectors, ranging from multiple hotel and shopping center chains to the retail business and real estate ventures. Additionally, UAE companies have indicated a keen interest in Georgia's energy sector, particularly in the development of renewable energy projects.

Georgia's substantial investments in infrastructure provide a robust foundation for continued growth, with opportunities for positive enhancements, particularly in refining transportation and communication networks. Such improvements are poised to further facilitate the seamless operation of businesses, underscoring the commitment of the UAE to contribute to Georgia's economic development and prosperity.

AK: We have heard about such projects as the 600-key Pontus Rotana Resort in Gonio (near Batumi) by UAE hotel management company Rotana, to open in 2026. Are there perhaps any other new business projects that you would like mention? 

AA: In addition to the above-mentioned Pontus Rotana resort, other UAE investment companies are in the process of implementing significant new projects in Georgia. Masdar, a leading renewable energy company based in the UAE, has recently signed an agreement with the Georgian Energy Development Fund (GEDF) to undertake the development of a solar power plant project in the country. Construction for the project is set to start in 2025.

Furthermore, there are anticipated investment agreements in the pipeline in real estate development and logistics that we hope to announce this year.

AK: You have a full picture of bilateral relations between our countries – in political, economic, cultural fields. Are there any achievements, or future projects that you want to emphasize?

AA: Since the formalization of diplomatic relations between our two countries more than three decades ago, the partnership between the UAE and Georgia has dynamically evolved in  diverse sectors, including across political cooperation, the economy and culture, and people-to-people ties.

In addition to the CEPA signing, over the last year, we have witnessed a considerable number of reciprocal high-level visits, the inaugural UAE-Georgia Business forum, the launching of new UAE investment projects in Georgia, and increases in bilateral trade, which reaffirms the mutual commitment to fostering strong bilateral ties between the two nations. The UAE believes there is huge potential for bilateral relations, which will lead us towards further progress in the years ahead.

In terms of cultural exchange, the Embassy organized an Evening of Arts and Classical Music by Emirati and Georgian artists last October, which commemorated the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the United Arab Emirates and Georgia. The event celebrated the achievements of the last three decades and the two countries leadership’s dedication to strengthening the people-to-people connections. Furthermore, in the coming years, we anticipate engaging in diverse cultural, economic, and educational exchanges that will further enhance the fabric of our bilateral ties. 

AK: In the field of education and science, an important meeting of the ministers of education of UAE and Georgia took place last month, where a memorandum was signed with some concrete areas of cooperation. Would you like to comment on the possible practical steps that will follow?  

Given Georgia's popularity as a study destination, the agreement is poised to attract more students and scholars. The Embassy is ready to facilitate participation of Georgian students and scholars in educational awards, scholarships, and exchanges initiated by the UAE.

AA: Within the educational field, the UAE is confident that cooperation between relevant higher educational institutions and implementing joint scientific projects will be mutually beneficial for both countries' educational systems.

Given Georgia's popularity as a study destination for international students, including citizens and residents of the UAE, the aforementioned agreement is poised to attract more students and scholars. Moreover, the Embassy is ready to further facilitate increased participation of Georgian students and scholars in educational awards, scholarships, and exchange programs initiated by the UAE.

AK:  May I ask about your personal interests, favourite hobbies or sports, that you might like to share with our readers? Maybe your personal preferences would help you to find and implement some new interesting cooperation ideas…

AA: Outside of my diplomatic responsibilities, I harbor a profound interest in cultural exploration that extends to the arts and traditions of different nations. This cultural immersion not only enriches my personal experiences but also serves as a foundation for fostering mutual understanding and collaboration.

Furthermore, my commitment to environmental sustainability is evident in my advocacy for ‘green’ initiatives. I firmly believe that addressing climate change and promoting sustainable practices are global imperatives. Collaborative projects centered around renewable energy, conservation efforts, or joint initiatives to combat environmental challenges could be pivotal in strengthening diplomatic ties.

The UAE firmly believes that integrating elements of art, culture, and sustainability into diplomatic initiatives will lead to fostering a deeper understanding and collaboration between nations.

AK:  If there is anything else that you would like to add for our readers, the floor is yours.

AA:  I just want to thank all Georgians for their warm hospitality and friendship and reiterate that I look forward to discovering more of this beautiful country, while staying committed to expanding the existing relations into new areas of mutual interest.

AK: Thank you very much! We wish you a most successful and enjoyable ambassadorial work in our country.

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