Italy is surprised at the Emiratis’ “slap in the face”.

Nothing is going well between Rome and Abu Dhabi. This week, a diplomatic incident highlighted the deterioration in relations between the two capitals, long rivals on the Libyan file (Italy positioned itself behind Tripoli, the United Arab Emirates with General Haftar).

This Tuesday, Rome organized a ceremony in Herat, Afghanistan, to celebrate the end of nearly twenty years of military presence alongside the Americans, which was marked by the deaths of 54 Italian soldiers. The Ministry of Defense had invited around fifty journalists and personalities to the occasion and provided them with an Air Force Boeing. To reach Herat, the plane had to pass through Gulf Monarchy airspace, but Abu Dhabi refused permission, forcing the pilots to change their route and land in Saudi Arabia for refueling. The Italian press condemned this “smack”, which forced the Minister of Defense (already there) to hold the ceremony without the guests, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs invited the Emirates’ Ambassador to seek explanations on the refusal to fly over.

Several interpretations compete to explain the Emirati decision. For some, Abu Dhabi wanted to openly express its disappointment at Italy’s decision to suspend arms sales to sanction its involvement in the war in Yemen – a measure made public in February 2021, when the Emirates had already withdrawn from the conflict . For Cinzia Bianco, a researcher at the European Council on Foreign Relations, the incident may rather have been caused by Italy’s decision to sell submarines to its Qatari neighbor: “This sense of double standards has probably already reinforced the impact of this decision in Abu Dhabi offended by Rome. »

Hard hit. According to the daily newspaper La Republica, Abu Dhabi could ask the Italian contingent, which uses the al-Minhad base as a base, to leave the place, in a blow to the transalpine presence in the region. A hypothesis that seems hard to believe at the moment while Rome uses these facilities to join the coalition against the Islamic State.

A step in this direction would be all the more surprising as it would come after two diplomatic visits by Italy to the country in 2021: that of a delegation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, then that of Minister Di Maio personally, who visited Emirates to discuss business and military cooperation to speak and inaugurate the Italian Pavilion at the World Expo in Dubai.

Researcher Cinzia Bianco stresses that relations with Abu Dhabi and Dubai must be differentiated: “The Italians have more difficulties with the capital than with Dubai, with which ties are closer from an economic point of view. Foreign Minister Di Maio’s itinerary confirms this: after meeting his counterpart in Abu Dhabi, he turned his attention to Dubai, the heart of relations. »

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