A top U.A.E. official defended the Trump administration against accusations that the U.S. travel ban on citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries is targeting Islam.
“The vast majority of Muslims and Muslim countries have not been affected by this ban,” United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed told a news conference in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday. “This is a temporary ban that will be reviewed within three months. It’s important to take these points into account.”
Leaders of some of the Arab world’s largest countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, haven’t reacted to the travel ban, which drew criticism from Canada to Germany and triggered protests at U.S. airports and several cities overseas. The executive order bars citizens of Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the country for 90 days.
The U.A.E., a federation of seven emirates that includes Dubai and Abu Dhabi, is a close U.S. ally. Along with Saudi Arabia, it’s engaged in a proxy conflict with Iran in Yemen. Damac Properties, a real-estate developer based in Dubai, is building Donald Trump-branded homes and two golf courses in the country’s trade hub.
“Undoubtedly, states have the right to take sovereign decisions,” said Sheikh Abdullah, a senior member of the royal family ruling Abu Dhabi, the U.A.E. capital. “We also have to take into account that some of the countries on the list are facing challenges and these countries should fix their situations before raising the issue with the United States.”
Attempts to make the ban look like an attack on a specific religion are “wrong,” he said.
Iranians accounted for 49 percent of non-immigrant visas issued to nationals of the seven targeted countries in 2015, according to U.S. State Department data. About 42 percent of immigrant visa issued in that same year went to Iranians. In 2015, a total of 89,387 visas were granted to citizens of the seven nations.
President Donald Trump held talks on Sunday with King Salman of Saudi Arabia as well as Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed. There was no public mention of the ban. Instead, the phone calls focused on efforts to combat terrorism and contain Iran’s influence.
(c) 2017, Bloomberg · Mahmoud Habboush, Zainab Fattah