x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Airport security pact signed between UK and UAE

Co-operation on airport security between the UK and the UAE would deter terrorists from using Dubai as a transit point, says British minister.

The UK minister Alistair Burt says Britain and the UAE will exchange data to ensure security.
The UK minister Alistair Burt says Britain and the UAE will exchange data to ensure security.

DUBAI // Co-operation on airport security between the UK and UAE would deter potential terrorists from using Dubai as a transit point, a British minister says.

Alistair Burt, a minister in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, said information and standards would be shared between the UK and UAE to ensure "watertight" security at Dubai International Airport.

The agreement comes a year after Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) tried to send two parcel bombs to the US via Dubai.

"Dubai airport is a major hub for the world. Everyone passes through," Mr Burt said. "In places like that you've got to be more careful that you've got complete security.

"Dubai is very conscious to make sure that it's doing everything right and that's very important. Making sure everything that comes through here is as watertight as possible has a deterrent effect on people."

A memorandum of understanding was signed between the two countries at the UK-UAE Joint Taskforce meeting in Dubai on Sunday. The exact details have not been released and Mr Burt declined to offer details.

But he said it would involve trading expertise and ensuring common standards across countries.

"It's a set of relationships about how we can make the airport more secure," Mr Burt said.

Last October, terrorists hid bombs in two computer printers sent by air freight from Yemen to the US.

One was discovered in Dubai. The other was uncovered in the UK's East Midlands Airport, having made it through airports in Dubai and Germany.

The detonators were hidden in the printers' toner cartridges and were found only after a warning from Saudi Arabia.

AQAP also claimed responsibility for the crash of a United Parcel Service cargo plane in September last year, although no evidence has been found to support the claim that a bomb caused the crash.

It is unclear whether the arrangement between the UK and UAE will also involve improving security on passenger flights.

Theodore Karasik, the director of the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis in Dubai, said security at Dubai International Airport was already very good.

"The cooperation with the UK is normal and is based on the need to share information because of the growth of the flights going between Dubai and UK airports," Mr Karasik said.

"Dubai airport is a transit point for people of interest. If they're on a particular watch list they will be called out.

"It's important for governments to data-share and to operate together against emerging threats. Terrorists will constantly try to poke holes in security whenever they can get away with it."

mcroucher@thenational.ae