His Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan is United Arab Emirates Minister of Foreign Affairs.
In July, I had the privilege of travelling throughout Canada with my colleague, host and friend, Foreign Minister John Baird, as we celebrated 40 years of diplomatic relations between Canada and the United Arab Emirates. With all of Canada's richness and success, it would be tempting for some to forget about the rest of the world – especially the United Arab Emirates' corner of it, in the Middle East – which seems too often these days to be full only of strife.
Yet Canadians refuse to be complacent. It's this resistance to the easy path in favour of the right one that makes Canada a valued and important friend on the world stage, at a time when it is more critical than ever for like-minded countries to come together and ensure that shared values of tolerance and diversity are protected, and that the most defenceless among us are safeguarded from terrorism.
We have spent the short 43 years since our independence building a society that, like Canada's, seeks to be tolerant and welcoming of people from all parts of the world, with a broad and varied tapestry of cultures and beliefs. However, we have done this in a part of the world where such values cannot be taken for granted, and indeed are now actively under attack by extremists whose narrow vision desecrates our sacred beliefs and has no place in modern times.
The UAE is up to the challenge of confronting these extremists. We in the region don't shy away from the fact that this is our fight, and we must be the first to stand up for our way of life. The UAE is actively contributing to the growing international coalition against the so-called Islamic State, with our pilots engaging in active combat missions.
However, it would be a mistake to believe this is only a fight for Middle Eastern countries. Hateful ideologies have no respect for borders, and thus demand a unified and global approach. Canada's willingness to contribute military resources to the coalition, as articulated by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, is a welcome and appreciated step that displays strong leadership and is a credit to all Canadians. Indeed, as Mr. Baird said in the Canadian Parliament on Monday, "We must think big for who we are, and what the promise of our people holds for the future."
Still, we know that this military mission can't itself eliminate the risk posed by extremists. Exposing the bankruptcy of terrorist ideology is a much longer and more complex task.
Equally necessary in this battle for moderation is to actively work through politics and diplomacy to minimize the global space for open conflict – we must work to shrink the battlefield by stabilizing trouble spots. In Syria, this means continuing to support moderates and seeking a political solution in line with the legitimate demands of the Syrian people. In Egypt, this means stabilizing the economy and ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to make a safe and secure living for themselves and their families. And in Palestine and Israel, this means continuing to work toward a two-state solution that ensures both dignity and security in equal measures.
To be sure, the details on these issues are always more complex than the broad outlines, and even close allies can have practical differences on the way forward. This is understood in both Ottawa and Abu Dhabi. However, the most essential step – and in many ways the most difficult – is making the decision to take a stand at all. The UAE, Canada, and our common partners and allies have taken that stand, and although the fight won't be easy or short, our common resolve shows that the principles we are defending are universal, and far more powerful than the forces of intolerance.
It is this truth that strengthens and guides the Emirati-Canadian partnership, and it is this truth that proves that our common values of co-operation and progress will always – given the appropriate amount of effort – prevail against forces of destruction and small-mindedness.