H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, has said that the significance of the UAE's hosting of Expo 2020 Dubai is in that it is the first event of its kind, "not only in the Middle East or the Arab world, but the first in Africa and South Asia and the first in a Muslim country."
His Highness made those remarks at a ceremony to mark the start of the one-year countdown to Expo 2020 which began yesterday, 20th October, in the Italian city of Matera - known as the European capital of culture.
"Expo 2020 Dubai coincides with the celebration of my country 's golden jubilee," Sheikh Abdullah said, adding that the UAE's leaders have united to walk in one path towards a shared destiny, opening up to the world and building bridges.
"Fifty years of development, openness, partnership and enlightenment," he said of the UAE.
He continued, "Fifty years of commitment to multilateral action in support of peace, stability and development. Fifty years for the UAE to become a global destination and centre where multiple nationalities, religions, values and ideals converge.
"And today, there is just one year left for the UAE to transform into a large melting pot welcoming the entire world."
So far, 192 countries have confirmed their participation in Expo 2020 Dubai. "We have strived for everyone to attend," Sheikh Abdullah noted.
On the impact that the event will have on the region, His Highness said that the UAE's ability to transcend sensitivities and challenges and to connect countries and nations to the region "in this way [referring to Expo] is unprecedented," and "our optimism about our region does not end despite everything we see around us."
"One of the positive things that is happening in our region is that stability, prosperity and joint action have become everybody's dream and desire.
"Our hosting of Expo is yet another embodiment of this endeavour and a great step on the path towards prosperity of mankind," he added.
Following a presentation given by Paolo Glisenti, General Commissioner for Italy at Expo 2020 Dubai, the Minister commended what Italy has in store for the event.
He said, "Expo will be a theatre for all to create, build, listen and learn."
"The baton has been passed from Milan to us, which gives us a great responsibility in the UAE to present something new... as well as our keenness to present an Expo with an oriental, Arab and Emirati flare."
His Highness Sheikh Abdullah concluded his speech by welcoming future guests. He told them, "As we say in Arabic, Hayyakum."
The event attendees included Luigi Di Maio, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Italy, Lorenzo Fioramonti Italian Minister of Education, University and Research, Omar Obaid Mohammed Al Shamsi, UAE Ambassador to Italy, and a large gathering of government officials, students, university professors, and scientists.