30th Nov 2022

UAE summons EU diplomats over passport affair

  • Hamas rally: The UAE has called on the EU to back its investigation into the killing of a Hamas leader (Photo: Hoheit)

The United Arab Emirates summoned European Union ambassadors over the weekend to demand that steps be taken to strengthen the security of passports in the wake of the killing of a Hamas leader in Dubai by individuals carrying fake EU papers.

The UAE secretary of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash called in the EU envoys resident in the capital, Abu Dhabi, for the briefing on Sunday (21 February)

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"The UAE is deeply concerned by the fact that passports of close allies, whose nationals currently enjoy preferential visa waivers, were illegally used to commit this crime," the ministry said in a statement published on the website of the WAM, the state news agency.

"The UAE has further urged these countries of the EU to build on the positive steps they are already taking to strengthen procedures preventing the abuse of passports," the statement continued.

Eleven of the 18-member squad that killed Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel in January were carrying British, Irish, French and German passports. Two Palestinians have also been held by authorities in relation to the case, but the Dubai police have been reluctant to issue details on the identity of the remaining five members.

Dubai police chief Lieutenant General Dahi Khalfan on Sunday said that as many as three of the killers carried diplomatic passports.

Meanwhile, the British press at the weekend reported that UK investigators are considering the possibility that the passport details were copied by Israeli immigration officials when the individuals whose passports were faked travelled via Tel Aviv.

While international speculation has presumed that the Mossad, Israel's intelligence service, was responsible for the killing, the government has maintained its "policy of ambiguity" on intelligence matters.

At the Abu Dhabi meeting, Mr Gargash also asked the EU countries to give their continued co-operation in the investigation.

The foreign minister, Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan, said: "The abuse of passports poses a global threat, affecting both countries' national security as well as the personal security of travellers."

The country appears to be concerned that it not be viewed as a soft touch when it comes to such crimes and the threat this could pose as a destination for business travellers, with the ministry emphasising the security of the country.

"The UAE ...will continue to do everything to protect its long-held position as a hospitable country that provides stability and security for its citizens as well as the residents, visiting tourists and the thriving business community within the bounds of UAE law."

According to Israeli daily Haaretz, during the meeting with Mr Gargash, the minister of state demanded that European Union foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday issue a communique condemning the use of EU passports by the killers and publicly backing the Dubai police investigation.

The paper quotes a European diplomatic source saying that a statement denouncing the events will be agreed by the EU ministers, but will not mention Israel.

"We are extremely concerned that European passports ...can be used in a different manner for a different purpose," Spanish foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said as he arrived at the Brussels meeting, AFP reports.

Mr Moratinos is also to hold talks with Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman in the margins of the foreign ministers' gathering in the EU capital.

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