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DUBAI (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) – The crown princes of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) discussed bilateral relations and other issues in a phone call on Monday (Sept 6), state media of the two countries said.

Despite being close allies, economic competition between the Gulf neighbours has been laying bare differences as Riyadh tries to challenge its smaller neighbour’s dominance as the region’s business, trade and tourism hub in a post-oil era.

Their national interests have diverged increasingly in recent years, as well as their views on regional issues such as their relations with Israel and Turkey.

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan – the de facto leaders of the two Gulf states – discussed the prospects for developing strategic cooperation, UAE state news agency WAM said.

The two leaders discussed “the prospects of further consolidating the strategic cooperation” between the countries, WAM said but did not provide further details.

Sheikh Mohammed had travelled to Riyadh in July meet his Saudi counterpart after the neighbours had clashed over oil policy, roiling global energy markets.

A compromise was eventually reached – and the countries’ energy ministers made a public show of how they had patched up differences. 

The UAE, which has been the Middle East’s commercial capital for more than a decade, is facing growing regional competition from Saudi Arabia, the Arab world’s largest economy.

On Sunday, the UAE said it was working on comprehensive economic agreements with countries in Asia and Africa, seeking US$150 billion (S$202 billion) of inward foreign investment over the next nine years, and further eased visa restrictions to try to attract more foreign talent.

Saudi Arabia has been also working on plans to boost economic growth. The world’s largest oil exporter is pushing international companies to put their Middle East hubs in the kingdom by the start of 2024 or risk losing out on business.

Some news channels are already starting to transfer operations out of Dubai.

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