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UAE state visit to UK hails ties that bind

posted on 28/04/2013: 2792 views

President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan has accepted an invitation from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to pay a State Visit to the United Kingdom from April 30 to May 1. In this special report, Gulf News explores the ties that bind two nations with a shared history across two centuries.

Since inking a peace treaty in 1820 to become a British protectorate and forging itself anew as a young independent nation in 1971 through to today's geopolitical landscape, the United Arab Emirates and its friendship with the United Kingdom remains full of promise, say officials on both sides of the longstanding friendship.

The first royal state visit by a UAE leader in 24 years this week is expected to further explore that promise as Queen Elizabeth II on official invitation hosts President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan at Windsor Castle for a two-day state visit beginning on Tuesday.

Sheikh Khalifa's visit marks the first royal appearance of a UAE leader in the UK since the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan was welcomed by the Queen and former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in London in 1989.

Sheikh Khalifa's two day itinerary will be full with a state luncheon to be held at Windsor Castle as well as a meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron at 10 Downing Street.

Sheikh Khalifa is scheduled for tea with the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall at Clarence House and in another engagement will lay a wreath at the tomb of The Unknown Warrior.

Sheikh Khalifa will be accompanied by UAE leaders from the political, military and business sectors. There is much today to celebrate as both the UK and the UAE reflect upon growing bilateral trade that is expected to reach Dh70 billion annually by 2015.

More than 100,000 UK expatriates live in the UAE -- the UK's largest trading partner in the Middle East – working in more than 5,000 UK businesses in the emirates which draw, alongside tourism, more than one million British visitors through 170 weekly flights between the two countries.

The UK has confirmed it is now exploring ways to boost the 50,000 annual visits by Emiratis to the UK through relaxed visa requirements for visit visa entry into the UK.

UK Ambassador to the UAE Dominic Jermey said the official two-day state visit marks two centuries of alliance and the promise of stronger futures for both countries.

"The forthcoming visit by His Highness Sheikh Khalifa to the UK reflects the special friendship between the royal families in the UK and UAE. It is a friendship borne out of a shared and unique history over 200 years and is filled by a commitment to work together for our common values and shared interests for generations to come,” Jermey told Gulf News.

"The ties between the UK and UAE are already strong. We are trusted friends and natural partners -- we work closely together on the full range of bilateral areas including diplomacy and security. The announcement of the State Visit by His Highness Sheikh Khalifa signals that these ties are only getting stronger. The visit will highlight the immense regard with which the people, the Government the Royal family of the UK hold all that make up the United Arab Emirates," Jermey said.

Edward Hobart, HM Consul General, British Embassy, Dubai, said "the State Visit of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa will set the seal on our new ways of working together. It comes after the visit to the UAE by Her Majesty The Queen in 2010 and also six months after the visit by the Prime Minister David Cameron during which increased collaboration between our two countries across everything from trade to education, energy to defence.”

Hobart said both countries have benefitted from their longstanding friendship.

"The UK is proud of the rich and prominent connections between our two countries that are getting stronger by the day. It makes me proud that UK expertise has played an important role in this and I am equally delighted by the Emirati contribution to modern UK. With this visit we can look to the future of the UK-UAE relationship with confidence and optimism,” Hobart told Gulf News.

Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Minister for Foreign Affairs, said in an earlier statement that the historic visit will explore unlimited future potential of the two countries.

"The State Visit of His Highness, The President, at the invitation of Her Majesty the Queen, is testament not only to the deep and historic ties between the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom, but also to the immense opportunities that exist in continued cooperation between our two countries. Under the leadership of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa, the President, the UAE is committed to further building and strengthening its bilateral relationship with the UK on all levels, with a particular focus on trade, regional and global security and education,” he said.

Both countries are helping each other weather tougher economic conditions in the global economy through shared commitments to investments, infrastructure and joint projects, said an embassy spokesperson.

"British citizens have helped drive UAE prosperity and have been involved in iconic projects like the Burj Khalifa and Abu Dhabi Formula One. UK oil companies, BP and Shell, have worked with Abu Dhabi for more than 70 years,” said the spokesperson.

"Emirati investment in the UK is also rich and diverse. Through projects like the London Array, the world's largest offshore wind farm, and the Emirates Skyline, a fantastic new cable car across the River Thames in London, the UAE is contributing positively to UK society.”

Dr. Theodore Karasik, director of Research and Consultancy at the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, said the visit will help cement security ties as both countries work for global peace and security.

"The relationship between the UK and the UAE has reached a new level of cooperation,” Karasik told Gulf News. "A lot of new UK entities are helping in the security realm. The visit signifies the importance of the relationship as the Cameron government moves forward with its security requirements in the UAE and the GCC.”

The UAE Embassy in the UK said that the "strong UAE and UK relationship is also based on defending common values and ensuring peace. Emirati troops and British soldiers have served in Afghanistan for more than a decade, co-operating closely to ensure stability in the Helmand region in particular. The UAE and the UK are at the forefront of international efforts to challenge extremism, co-chairing the Countering Violent Extremism unit of the Global Counterterrorism Forum, and are increasingly collaborating on international development.”

Embassy officials said the two countries "have also worked together in Libya, where both contributed to the 2011 NATO mission, and in Yemen to promote political stability and help rebuild the country's infrastructure. The UAE and the UK are also working together to combat piracy off the coast of Somalia.”

The embassy said the UK is a "trusted and valued friend of the United Arab Emirates.. During the volatile recent history of the region, the UAE has striven to be a source of stability, economic growth and innovation.”

The embassy also noted that both Britain and the UAE are signatories to the Defence Cooperation Accord in 1996 "which sets out arrangements for security cooperation and represents Britain's largest defence commitment outside NATO.” – Gulf News


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