x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Queen Elizabeth to make state visit

Meeting with Sheikh Khalifa will "strengthen friendship for future" as British monarch returns for the first time since 1979.

ABU DHABI // Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh will visit the UAE in late November, Buckingham Palace confirmed yesterday.

The royal couple's two-day state visit, postponed from last year, is scheduled to begin on November 24.

It will mark the British monarch's first visit to the Emirates since 1979.

She will meet with Sheikh Khalifa, President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi. The Queen will also visit Oman during the trip.

The visit comes against the backdrop of next month's meeting in London of the UK-UAE task force, a group set up to co-ordinate on common objectives in trade, foreign policy, security, culture and education.

"The UK and the UAE have a long history together and strong ties," said Dominic Jermey, the British ambassador to the UAE. "As we strengthen our friendship for the future, this visit celebrates the depth and breadth of those ties."

Gerd Nonneman, a professor of Middle East politics at the Centre for Gulf Studies at Exeter University in England, said Queen Elizabeth's visit bears special significance in light of the task force meeting.

"Britain has a long history and personal relationships in the Gulf, and in the UAE in particular," he said. "But in the past few years they have taken it too much for granted.

"There is competition [in the UAE] from other countries such as the United States, France and the Asian powers. At the same time, the new generation of UAE decision-makers are much more proactive - they are actively exploring their international options.

"[Sending the Queen] is the biggest statement you can make, she is the head of state, and there is a traditional attachment to that symbol in the UK."

Prof Nonneman also said the UK might be hoping the Queen's royal credentials give the country an advantage over the competition. "This will be a meeting between royalty and royalty - that kind of symbolism has some potency," he said.

"Some of them have personal relationships with the royal family, so they are playing on that personal link and the symbolism about mutual recognition at the highest royal level."

smclain@thenational.ae