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The United Arab Emirates and Ukraine announced on Monday their intention to start negotiations on a bilateral trade agreement, which is expected to be concluded by the middle of next year, the UAE's economy ministry said, Reuters reported.

The agency reminds that the UAE is trying to remain neutral in the Russia-Ukraine war despite Western pressure on the Persian Gulf oil producers, which are members of "OPEC+", to help isolate Moscow.

The Minister of State for Foreign Trade of the UAE, Thani bin Al Zeyoudi, and the Minister of Economy of Ukraine, Yulia Sviridenko, signed a joint statement regarding the negotiations for the so-called

"Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement" (CEPA), the ministry announced.

This would be the UAE's first such deal with a European country following more than $3 billion in investment and trade PROMISED during Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's visit to the Gulf state in February 2021.

"Ukraine is a key trading partner for us. The potential for growth and investment was high before the whole geopolitical situation; we think it's time to push things forward," Thani bin Al Zeyoudi, the UAE's minister of state for foreign trade, told Reuters.

Non-oil trade between the UAE and Ukraine stood at just over $900 million in 2021, up nearly 29% from the previous year and up 12% from 2019, according to UAE data.

The price ceiling on the import of Russian crude oil transported by sea comes into force today

Talks are likely to focus on opportunities to expand trade in the services sector and on food security, where the UAE, as a trade hub, is making a push.

Ukraine is a major supplier of grain to the Middle East, according to Reuters.

The ministry's statement said the trade agreement with Ukraine would open up access to new markets in Asia, Africa and the Middle East for Ukrainian agricultural and industrial production.

"This will not only bring added value to the UAE, but also to Ukraine," Al Zeyoudi told Reuters.

The UAE signed free trade agreements with India, Israel and Indonesia this year, aiming to build the emirate's position as a global trade and logistics hub amid growing competition from Saudi Arabia.

bilateral trade agreement