x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Queen Elizabeth plans warm welcome for UAE President

The monarch has been actively involved in preparing the itinerary and comfort of the Sheikh Khalifa during his two-day visit this month.

ABU DHABI // Britain's Queen Elizabeth has been personally involved in the arrangements for Sheikh Khalifa's state visit to the UK next week, according to the country's ambassador to the UAE.

The monarch has been "very detailed" in her preparation and "presented a personal interest in hosting Sheikh Khalifa", said Dominic Jermey, who met with her last December.

"Her majesty the queen is looking forward to this as a personal visit," Mr Jermey said yesterday.

"When I met the queen in Buckingham Palace to talk potentially about this visit she was looking forward to this as something she was very personally involved in.

"The arrangement and what happens formally in this visit was very much decided by her majesty, even down to the placement at the luncheon."

Mr Jermey described next week's trip by the President as an "exceptional visit".

"The reason why this is an exceptional visit is because I can't think of anywhere else where there has been a visit by her majesty the queen, in this case to the UAE in 2010, and there has been a return visit by the head of that receiving state within two and a half years," he said.

Queen Elizabeth visited the UAE in 1979 and received the late President, Sheikh Zayed, in 1989.

"The President will be coming as the personal guest of her majesty the queen because he was invited by the queen and not the British government, and this is part of her role as a monarch of 61 years," Mr Jermey said.

Sheikh Khalifa's two-day visit begins on April 30. He will be flanked by a high-level delegation of Government leaders, ministers and businessmen, Mr Jermey said.

"Sheikh Khalifa's visit continues that long-standing relationship," he said. "The UK and UAE share a long-standing and unique history and the forthcoming visit will mark an important milestone in that history and will be testimony to the strength of the friendship at the very highest level."

The queen will host Sheikh Khalifa at Windsor Castle and will hold a state luncheon in his honour.

On the first day of his visit, the President and his entourage will travel to Windsor Castle, in Berkshire, in horse-drawn carriages, Mr Jermey revealed.

"He will receive a formal welcome by her majesty the queen as her guest and then they will travel to Windsor Castle together, where there will be a private reception and conversation and then they will have a formal state luncheon," he said.

"This is the high point of the visit, at the formal reception, where all the great and the good of British society will be present."

Sheikh Khalifa will then inspect a guard of honour.

"For us, this is important because we have very strong military links between our two countries, like joint operations in Afghanistan and Libya," Mr Jermey said.

On the second day, Sheikh Khalifa will be involved in more formal governmental activities. He is scheduled to call in to the official residence of the prime minister, David Cameron, at 10 Downing Street before visiting Westminster Abbey to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior.

Sheikh Khalifa will also be a guest of the Prince of Wales, Prince Charles, and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, at their London home, Clarence House, for tea.

"This is important as the Prince of Wales is the Crown Prince, a monarch in waiting, and the last time Sheikh Khalifa was in the United Kingdom he too was the Crown Prince. It has been a tradition that Sheikh Khalifa knows well," Mr Jermey said.

amustafa@thenational.ae