By the Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates, His Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who arrives in New Zealand for a visit today.
Although separated by vast distances, the United Arab Emirates and New Zealand are becoming ever more closely connected. From direct flights, to our co-operation in the Pacific and beyond, the UAE-New Zealand relationship is moving to exciting new levels.
Nowhere is the symbol of vitality in our bilateral relations more evident than in the level of trade.
In 2014, non-oil trade alone reached over $1 billion. This trade, underpinned by the UAE's growing demand for dairy, lamb, beef, and other agricultural goods, looks set to expand in the years ahead.
In co-operation with our New Zealand Government counterparts, the UAE wishes to explore further opportunities not only to ensure that our bilateral economic relations continue to develop, but also that the UAE continues to be the go-to location for New Zealanders seeking to do business in the broader Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African regions.
The UAE's well developed service sector and prime geographical location have paved the way for our country to become the central economic, innovation, and trade hub for a wider region encompassing more than two billion people.
Almost 5000 New Zealanders reside in the UAE, joining over 200 nationalities contributing to the vibrant growth and exciting developments taking place in our country.
We hope that with the establishment of direct flights between Dubai and Auckland, the longest commercial flight route in the world, the interactions that take place between our two societies on a daily basis will only grow.
The UAE economy continues to develop rapidly.
In the 1970s, oil accounted for more than 90 per cent of the UAE's Gross National Product (GNP). Today, oil contributes to only a third of our GNP. Nevertheless, the UAE Government is committed to ensuring that our reliance upon hydrocarbons for our economy's development continues to decrease at an ever faster pace.
A key element in the success of the UAE's economic diversification has been our strong commitment to a post-oil, green energy future. Over many years, the UAE has been a significant investor in clean energy.
Not only have we sought to develop clean energy in our own country, but we have also committed over $840 million in clean energy aid to developing countries.
We are a major investor in a number of international commercial clean energy projects and we are the proud host country of the International Renewable Energy Agency, of which New Zealand is an important and valued member.
Both of our countries have invested millions of dollars and co-operated closely in supporting sustainable development throughout the Pacific region.
For instance, in Tuvalu and the Solomon Islands, the UAE and New Zealand have worked closely to develop solar power projects, which will not only provide a clean source of energy but also improve the livelihoods and economic pathways for the people of these island nations.
As the UAE charts its own unique and progressive development path we will engage closely with New Zealand in finding innovative solutions to some of the world's most pressing challenges. In particular, the UAE considers the need to confront the dangers of extremist ideologies to be a global priority that all countries must respond to.
In this regard, the UAE commends New Zealand's strong stance against Daesh (Isis) and the constructive role it continues to play in Middle Eastern and global affairs.
The UAE understands that overcoming the cycle of violence and instability facing our region appears to be an imposing challenge.
Nevertheless, the UAE remains resolute in our commitment to promoting a positive agenda that respects the rights of women, tolerates all cultures and creeds, and provides economic opportunities for our children.
On the occasion of my visit to New Zealand, I sincerely believe that new and groundbreaking opportunities await our two countries and that we can both promote a secure future to not only our own citizens, but also our surrounding regions.