x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

UAE and UK acting together to resolve Syrian 'tragedy'

UAE and UK enjoy a close relationship because they share a similar approach to foreign relations, says British consul general.

DUBAI // The UAE and the UK are working together over the "tragedy" in Syria, Britain's consul general to Dubai has said.

"The two countries work very closely together, along with other partners in this region and in Europe, on trying to address the tragedy in Syria and bring [Syrian president, Bashar Al] Assad to a point where he realises he has to step aside in order for the country to be able to move forward with some prospect of peace and future harmony," said Edward Hobart.

Syria is one of a number of foreign policy areas where the UAE and the UK are acting together.

"Another subject of mutual concern is the Iranian nuclear programme and the impact that has on regional stability," Mr Hobart said. "In Libya we operated together in enforcing the no-fly zone. In Somalia we are working closely on supporting the new government that has come in there. So the UAE and the UK are very often at the core of these regional issues."

He said the relationship between the UAE and the UK was particularly valuable because there were many areas where the countries adopted a similar approach.

"Sometimes we don't see things in exactly the same way," he said.

"But because we have a deeper relationship we're able to have confidence around our differences."

An important element in the relationship between the countries is the UK-UAE Task Force, a high-level body set up in 2010 by the President, Sheikh Khalifa and David Cameron, the British prime minister. "The task force is one of many symbols of what's a really strengthened relationship between the two countries," said Mr Hobart. "Over the past three years there has been a great deal of interaction between the governments, the military, cooperation in third countries and ongoing growth in trade and investment in both directions."

Mr Hobart became consul general last August after spending a year as deputy head of mission at the Abu Dhabi embassy. He said the emirates performed an important role in the region.

"The role of the UAE has been in many ways a champion of thinking forwards, thinking liberally, thinking openly about how a Gulf economy can work successfully.

"Abu Dhabi is growing fast, diversifying fast and has some fantastic ambitions in its Economic Vision 2030. The UK as a partner - as it has been to this part of the Gulf for two centuries - sees Abu Dhabi as a place where we want to become more and more involved. And Dubai is massively successful."

He said the same was true of the other emirates and there were opportunities for the UK to work within established relationships.

"One of the great advantages that the UK has with Abu Dhabi and Dubai is a depth of understanding and relationships between people. Emiratis travel to the UK all the time and you forever meet Emiratis who say the UK is their second home."

Sebastian Coe, the head of the organisation that ran last year's Olympic Games in London, repeated a remark that summed up the close links between the countries, he said.

"One member of a UAE ruling family said to Lord Coe, 'We are so proud of your Olympics'. That for me symbolised this kind of personal association of Emiratis with the UK," Mr Hobart added.

csimpson@thenational.ae