The strong relationship between the UK and the UAE was emphasised at a special National Day dinner in London
Strong UK-UAE ties celebrated at National Day celebration in London
London// The strong relationship between the UAE and Britain was emphasised at a National Day event in the heart of London.
Ambassadors, business leaders, politicians, bankers and military top brass were among the guests at one of the British capital’s grandest hotels, the Dorchester, to celebrate 42 years of nationhood.
The occasion offered a fitting climax to 2013, in which the ties between the countries were highlighted by the successful state visit of Sheikh Khalifa in April, which included a banquet at Windsor Castle hosted by Queen Elizabeth.
Abdulrahman Ghanim Al Mutaiwi, the UAE Ambassador to Britain, said the visit celebrated “our many decades of friendship. Since then, we have gone from strength to strength.”
In his speech, he listed a range of achievements and initiatives including: Britain’s support for the successful Dubai bid to host Expo 2020; 100,000 Britons living and working in the UAE; 5,000-plus UK-owned businesses operating in the country; 3,000 Emirati students on courses in the UK; plans for a £1 billion (Dh6 billion) investment by Masdar, the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company, in Britain’s green business plan; Masdar support for London Array, Europe’s largest offshore wind farm; DP World’s London Gateway port project, the first phase of which opened last month.
Mr Al Mutaiwi said the links would be demonstrated again in January at the UAE-UK Pioneers Forum, a two-day careers event billed as “a unique experience bringing together the most prestigious UAE and UK businesses with bright undergraduates from universities in the UK”.
Both the ambassador and Britain’s minister for North Africa and the Middle East, Hugh Robertson, also reflected on mutual efforts on defence and conflict resolution.
Mr Al Mutaiwi made particular reference to attempts to secure a peaceful settlement in Syria, scene of “one of the worst conflicts in our time”, as core members of the Friends of Syria group.
“There are many in this room who have worked tirelessly to advance our cooperation in those seemingly intractable conflicts and to enhance our relations,” he said.
Mr Robertson, who began his new role only six weeks ago having previously been the minister in charge of the 2012 London Olympics, spoke of troops from the two countries serving “side by side” in Afghanistan.
As well as monitoring developments in Iran and Syria, the UAE and UK were encouraging the “more positive horizons of the Arab Spring”.
Since 1974, he said, 200 Emiratis had graduated from Britain’s army officer training centre, the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, the second highest rate among the UK’s defence partners.
“I cannot think of any time when our ties have been closer than now,” said Mr Robertson. “We have achieved the real trick of really strong relationships by not depending on one field alone.
“It goes beyond economic links, which work both ways, and the unbelievably thriving defence relationship. The leaderships of our two countries simply get on extraordinarily well.”
He cited two examples: big orders placed for Airbus aircraft, especially by Emirates, at last month’s Dubai Air Show and the British prime minister David Cameron’s enthusiastic support for Dubai Expo 2020 bid.
Mr Al Mutaiwi agreed. He said Expo 2020 would be more than a trade fair. “It is an opportunity for cultural exchange, a showcase for innovation,” he said.
“Dubai is ideally placed to hold the fair. Although famed for its glimmering skyscrapers, it is also one of the Middle East’s art hubs and the home of the region’s burgeoning technology startup scene.
“A UAE city holding the expo comes as no surprise - it is our cosmopolitan open society that makes the UAE the most inspiring place for ambitious young Arabs to emigrate to, and attracts over a million British visitors a year.”