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Khalifa lays wreath in Westminster Abbey

posted on 02/05/2013: 4354 views



London: President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan this afternoon laid a wreath at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey in central London.

Since the body of an unknown British soldier was first laid there in 1920, having been transferred from a war grave in France, to honour the memory of soldiers who died in the First World War, over 70 foreign heads of state have laid wreaths at the grave as a mark of respect.

The President, who was met on arrival at the Abbey by the Duke of York, was received at the Abbey door by the Very Reverend Dr. John Hall, Dean of Westminster, who presented to him the Canons of Westminster, officials of the Abbey.

The Abbey, close to the Houses of Parliament, is the place of coronation and burial of British monarchs.

The President was then conducted to the Grave of the Unknown Warrior by the Dean, where he laid the wreath.

HH Sheikh Khalifa was accompanied by two members of the UAE Armed Forces, Second Lieutenant Moza Al Nueimi, the first female Emirati cadet to graduate from Britain's Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, and First Lieutenant Hamad al Amiry, also a Sandhurst graduate and a veteran of the Emirati military mission in Afghanistan.

Following the saying of prayers by the Dean, the President was then escorted on a short tour of the Abbey.

Sheikh Khalifa then signed the Abbey's Distinguished Visitors' Book, saying "We in the United Arab Emirates value the lives of those who have sacrificed themselves for their country. The love of country and to sacrifice for it is the aim of everyone who seeks to protect his country." UAE Ministers and other members of the delegation also attended the ceremony.

Forces from the UAE and Britain work closely together in Afghanistan.

UAE forces have been operating in Afghanistan since 2003, the first and largest Arab military contingent to be engaged there alongside NATO-led Coalition forces. At its peak, the UAE presence in Afghanistan numbered 1300 soldiers. 600 are still deployed there. In accordance with the UAE Constitution, they are used only for defensive purposes. They are focussed on protecting humanitarian initiatives - which are regularly threatened by violence and instability in Afghanistan - and providing safety and stability for local communities.

The language skills and cultural awareness of the UAE Armed Forces personnel make them particularly well equipped for these tasks. Despite the ongoing need, recent achievements in healthcare, education and the provision of basic infrastructure can in part be directly and indirectly attributed to the work of the UAE Armed Forces in the provision of safety, stability and culturally-sensitive community development. At the invitation of the Afghan government, Emirati forces will continue to offer training and support to the Afghan military.

The UAE, over the past ten years, has also been a major civilian donor to Afghanistan, providing well over half-a-billion US dollars in aid and most recently pledging on 24 April 2013 to donate US$120 million by 2018 for polio eradication. Projects funded by the UAE include medical clinics, which have so far treated over 35,000 Afghan patients; the Zayed University which trains medics and engineers in Khost; and also wells, mosques and schools.

In March 2012 the UAE and UK signed a joint agreement to work closely together in supporting infrastructure development and education in Afghanistan. Sheikha Lubna al-Qasimi, the UAE's Minister for Development and International Cooperation met her UK counterpart, Justine Greening, yesterday to discuss continued cooperation between the two countries.

The UAE and UK are specifically supporting education for girls, in both Afghanistan and neighbouring Pakistan. Both worked to help Malala Yousufzai, -- shot by the Taliban for seeking education, airlifted from Pakistan by the UAE, and given treatment in Manchester.

In addition to Afghanistan, the UK and UAE have worked together in other peacekeeping operations.

The UAE contributed a dozen fighter jets to the UN-authorised military intervention in Libya in 2011; with the UK contributing 36 aircraft to the Libya operation.

The UAE and UK have also taken an active part in the ongoing fight against piracy off the Horn of Africa; The UAE and the U.K. are partners in the Friends of Yemen group, which is working to secure development aid and ensure political stability in Yemen; The UK and UAE are also partners in the global fight against extremism - both states co-chair the Countering Violent Extremism unit of the Global Counterterrorism Forum. The UAE this year inaugurated the Hedayah (Guidance) Centre in Abu Dhabi, designed to help states share best practice in dealing effectively with terrorism, its roots and consequences. - Emirates News Agency, WAM

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