The latest visit to the UAE by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will be the most visible but far from the only sign of the close and growing relationship between to the two countries.
Co-operation is taking place on many levels, to the extent that reports suggest tourists could be able to obtain a joint Saudi-UAE visa as early as next year.
In Riyadh this week, bank officials from both countries are meeting to discuss the challenges and opportunities for the two financial sectors.
Much of the impetus comes from the Saudi-Emirati Co-ordination Council, created to bring closer co-operation between the two countries in areas such as defence, politics and culture.
Housing is another part of the agreement. The first meeting of the Saudi-Emirate Housing Council in Dubai was held this month to look at ways to jointly address matters related supply and demand, as well as legislation and regulations.
“The UAE’s co-operation with Saudi Arabia is part of joint efforts to make their citizens happy, and we shall exert all our efforts and support joint initiatives to achieve this goal,” said Abdullah Al Nuaimi, Minister of Infrastructure Development.
Only last month, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, visited what he has called “our second home”.
Sheikh Mohamed and Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Defence Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman discussed security issues in the region.
Meetings and discussions may have intensified since 2017, but they are part of an inevitable relationship between two countries that have much in common,.
The relationship goes back many generations but has grown stronger since Sheikh Zayed became first President of the new UAE in December 1971.
The two countries have continued to present a unified front on all the important issues facing the region down the years, from the oil embargo imposed on the US for supporting Israel in the 1972 war, to committing troops for the liberation of Kuwait in 1990 to the need, most recently, to restore the legitimate government in Yemen.
Both countries have stood side by side and, on occasions, fought side by side, to defend their core principles.
Creating a framework for this relationship began in earnest in 1981, with the formation of the Gulf Co-operation Council in Abu Dhabi.
Many years after that historic gathering at the city’s Intercontinental Hotel, the road outside was named after King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the Saudi Ruler at the time and another regular visitor to the capital.
The accession of King Salman in 2015, the appointment of Prince Mohammed as Crown Prince and the subsequent opening up of the kingdom have brought the two countries even closer together.
The changes in Saudi Arabia coincided with several issues that have benefited from a common resolve.
Both countries have publicly condemned extremism and the activities of groups such as ISIS.
The issue of extremism in the region also led to the UAE and Saudi Arabia, with other friendly states, standing up to Qatar’s support for terrorism.
They have resisted growing interference by Iran, condemning in the strongest terms attacks on Saudi oil installations and shipping in the region.
More than words have been employed in this struggle. In the face of Houthi aggression in Yemen, the UAE and Saudi Arabia have committed troops in an unprecedented military alliance in which young men from both countries paid the ultimate price in defence of freedom.
Beyond the battlefield, the Saudi-Emirati Co-ordination Council continues to meet, this year announcing seven new initiatives covering everything from a joint cryptocurrency, a common market for civil aviation to improved traffic through entry points in both countries.
More recent proposals on housing, banking and tourist visas are signs that these initiatives are being put into action – and that many more will follow.