x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Discussions still under way between UK and UAE on military collaboration

Philip Hammond, the UK's Secretary of State for Defence, said talks with the UAE were making good progress on the sidelines of the Dubai Airshow.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, chats with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, as they watch a display while touring the Dubai Airshow on its opening day yesterday. Ryan Carter / Crown Prince Court – Abu Dhabi
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, chats with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, as they watch a display while touring the Dubai Airshow on its opening day yesterday. Ryan Carter / Crown Prince Court – Abu Dhabi

DUBAI // Talks on military collaboration, training and exercises between the UK and the UAE are still under way, Britain’s defence minister said at the opening of the Dubai Airshow.

Philip Hammond confirmed a number of discussions with the UAE were “making good progress”, although no public announcement has yet been made.

“Discussions are under way around many strands of military collaboration, including the Eurofighter Typhoon deal, and those discussions continue very well,” he said.

“These are all long-running ongoing complex issues. They don’t happen overnight, but they are part of building a strong and deep-rooted partnership with the countries in the region.”

The UK said last July that it was drafting a deal to help UAE military-technology companies sell to the European Union.

The UAE’s military products would be marketed in the UK as part of any possible Eurofighter Typhoon deal. Mr Hammond said no military contracts had yet been signed.

“All our discussions with the UAE around military collaboration are about building partnerships,” he said. “It’s certainly not simple equipment deals, it’s a much more complex collaboration than that.

“This is about a much broader collaboration than just any single piece of military equipment.

“It’s about training, security cooperation, technological development, industrial partnership and investment as well as military equipment, so it’s part of a much bigger package of collaboration that serves both countries’ interests.”

Mr Hammond said Britain had received offers from UAE companies for the sale of military equipment.

“We have some areas of equipment where we’ve identified a need to maintain our own sovereign capability, where we will always buy from UK companies,” he said.

“But we have another very broad area of military equipment where we buy in open tender from the best, most value-for-money source that we can. We’re very happy to receive offers from UAE companies and we have received offers from UAE companies.

“In any defence deal that the UAE does, there will always be an offset requirement, which will mean that some part of the product will be manufactured here and supplied back to the main assembly. That’s a very effective way of driving industrial development and technology transfer, making sure that these very large orders are a win for both countries in the deal.”

Mr Hammond said he had met King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain at the airshow, and had discussed the country’s need for fighter jets.

“We continue to have very fruitful discussions with Bahrain about the Typhoon, and we very much hope that Bahrain will decide soon to join the Typhoon family,” he said. “I think those discussions are very positive and I look forward to a good outcome.”

Mr Hammond said he hoped British defence sales to the UAE would grow. “The UAE is very important strategically to us as an ally in the Arabian Gulf,” he said.

“It’s important because we have an excellent security relationship, and as an industrial partner because it’s a rapidly industrialising country with a high-technology focus and a huge appetite for both civil and military equipment, which means there are potentially significant deals to be done.

“UK defence sales to the UAE are relatively modest, but we hope in the future that that will change and we’ll see a rapid growth in that relationship over the coming years.”

Mr Hammond also stressed the significance of the airshow to the industry.

“People will pay a lot of attention to a region that’s generating such a large portion of business for the big civil airline manufacturers, and this isn’t just one-way traffic,” he said.

“There’s also a big development going on of the UAE’s industrial base to support the supply of parts and components into the manufacture of those aircraft, so it’s a good deal on both sides.”

The airshow was attended by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.

cmalek@thenational.ae