Russia’s Vnesheconombank (VEB) is strengthening its focus on Islamic finance and work in the Middle East with the opening of a representative office in Abu Dhabi.

In a statement, VEB says the office is now ready to operate after having obtained all necessary permits, a commercial license and a registration certificate. The aim is to provide access to sales and capital markets in the region, create opportunities for partnership with local players, and ultimately promote co-operation between the UAE and Russia in exports and investment.

One strategic focus area, the bank says, will be working together with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). VEB’s OIC export loan and guarantee portfolio currently stands at US$2.8bn.

The bank’s new chairman Igor Shuvalov says the new office will allow VEB to “bring the co-operation with the region to a new level” and that it is now “set to move forward and actively engage in financing joint projects”.

“VEB has been actively co-operating with the UAE and the Middle East, and the Islamic world as a whole,” he says. “We are working to engage investors, raise finance, enhance trade and foster greater economic ties, and also promote high-technology exports from Russia. The Abu Dhabi representative office will promote VEB’s interests and enable co-operation with local players”.

The news comes just a few weeks after VEB announced it had partnered with the Islamic Development Bank Group to establish a US$100mn joint fund which will be based on the principles of Islamic finance.

At the time, Sergei Gorkov, the then-chairman of the bank, labelled the Middle East as “one of the strategic areas of co-operation” for VEB.

“In addition to the traditional activities like financing projects and supporting exports, we are actively developing co-operation in the field of new technologies, for example, together with Dubai we are developing blockchain solutions,” he said.