x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Miliband ponders UAE trip

The British foreign secretary, David Miliband, is considering making his first official visit to the UAE.

ABU DHABI // The British foreign secretary, David Miliband, is considering making his first official visit to the UAE in the next few months during a regional tour. Plans for the trip are in still in their early stages, sources said. If it happens, the visit is expected at the end of November. Mr Miliband has not yet made an official trip to the UAE, the UK's largest export market in the Middle East for non-military goods, and home to as many as 120,000 British nationals.

The UK's Defence Co-operation Agreement with the UAE represents its largest defence commitment outside Nato. Mr Miliband recently praised the UAE's "responsible approach" to developing a civil nuclear programme, calling it an example to others. The UK's foreign and commonwealth office declined to comment on Mr Miliband's travel plans. The last time a British government official visited to the UAE was in March 2007, when the former foreign secretary, Margaret Beckett, met with her UAE counterpart, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed.

Mr Miliband last visited the region in June on a short trip to the Palestinian Territories, and toured Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan in April. That followed a Middle East trip in Nov 2008, when he met with the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, and the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert. At home, the foreign secretary has been busy deflecting rumours that he may make a bid for the Labour Party leadership.

Speculation has been rife since Mr Miliband thrust himself into the spotlight in July, when he called for "real change" in the party in an article in The Guardian newspaper. lmorris@thenational.ae