I am delighted to be back in the UAE - the third time as Foreign Minister. I have returned at the end of a very special year - a year in which the UAE celebrates its achievements over 40 years and takes pride in the unity it has created.
It has also been a special year for the UK's relationship with the UAE. Under the unique mechanism of the UK-UAE taskforce led by myself and Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the UAE Foreign Minister, our two governments have come together to deliver tangible successes across the full range of bilateral issues. These include: an agreement on aviation security, changes to our consular arrangements to support the many Emiratis and Britons living and visiting our countries, progress on our visa regimes, establishment of a forum of top British and Emirati businessmen to help drive our trade and investment ambitions, and the holding of a joint-development seminar.
In my opinion such successes are only possible when there is a solid and trusting relationship between nations. Prime Minister David Cameron made an early decision when he arrived at No 10 last year that the UAE was one of the countries where the relationship needed to be elevated and intensified.
The personal engagement has been very constructive with early visits by Prime Minister Cameron and the defence minister and of course the very memorable visit by Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh last November. The momentum was maintained throughout 2011 with a long string of cabinet and non-cabinet ministers engaging with friends and colleagues in this country.
Over the same period, the UK has been honoured to host leading members of the Emirati government including most recently Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, and Sheikh Abdullah in October.
A particular area of cooperation has been in foreign policy. Events across the region - from Tunisia to Syria - have brought unprecedented challenges needing a clear international response.
Of particular note has been our ability to jointly lead the international intervention in Libya. Prime Minister Cameron spoke up for action in Libya as soon as it became obvious that the people of Libya needed protection from Qaddafi's brutal forces.
The UAE was one of the first partners to whom we turned in looking for allies. The UAE's leadership, including in the GCC, helped ensure regional partners understood the importance of a no-fly zone and the UN Security Council resolution 1973.
The UAE and Qatar were crucial partners for us in enforcing that no-fly zone to stop the suffering and killing of innocent Libyans. The role played by UK and UAE diplomats, military personnel and humanitarian organisations was exemplary.
Of course, both our countries will provide ongoing support for this newly liberated country, but it is ultimately up to the Libyan people to decide their own future. We remain committed to helping the Libyan people to build a secure, just and prosperous future and aiding them as they look to respect human rights and put in place a democratic government.
There are many other examples where we have shared views and worked together this year. The UK strongly supports the GCC initiative on Yemen which the UAE has led as chair of the Council. We also share grave concern about the deteriorating situation in Syria and the brutal violence orchestrated by the regime.
And of course we are both deeply concerned by events in Iran. It is crucial that the international community continues to stand firm and increase pressure on Iran until it agrees to come to the table and meaningfully address international concerns about its nuclear programme.
There are of course a host of other issues where we work together. Our close relationship, reaffirmed in 1979 in the Treaty of Friendship that Sheikh Abdullah and I renewed last year, is of benefit to us both. That treaty made clear that the UK and UAE would, in times of need, consult each other on matters of mutual interest and promote ties. From the successes we have achieved thus far and the potential for further collaboration as the closest of allies I look to our future relations with confidence about what we can achieve together.