x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

UAE and UK pledge their support in Afghanistan

Foreign ministers announce work in region is extension of countries' growing co-operation.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague (R) speaks during a joint press conference as Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rasool and UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan look on.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague (R) speaks during a joint press conference as Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rasool and UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan look on.

ABU DHABI // The Minister of Foreign Affairs and his UK counterpart have held talks with the Afghan government in a surprise visit to the country.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed and William Hague reinforced the international coalition’s continuing work in Afghanistan during the three-day visit that ended yesterday (Thursday).

 

Mr Hague also spoke of the joint work being carried out between Britain and the Emirates.

“Political and military progress can only hold with a strong foundation of governance and the rule of law. The UK and UAE are committed to supporting Afghanistan in these areas for the long term,” Mr Hague said.

“The UK and the UAE are increasingly collaborating on development projects elsewhere, bringing together our respective strengths and skills to add value and impact.

“I am delighted to announce our intention to extend this co-operation to Afghanistan. We have been discussing areas of mutual interest, for example, in the areas of education and infrastructure.”

The two senior officials paid tribute to the British and Emirati troops serving in the country.

On Wednesday, the ministers were in the capital, Kabul, where they held talks with president Hamid Karzai and the Afghan foreign minister, Zalmai Rassoul.

“The UK and UAE fully support President Karzai’s call for an Afghan-led political process. In our meeting, President Karzai set out the progress already made as well as remaining challenges,” Mr Hague said.

Their discussions focused on Afghan efforts in the political process, including reconciliation, as well as progress against the insurgency and on wider governance and development.

They also discussed the handover of responsibility for security to Afghan forces in seven areas of Afghanistan. The handover is scheduled to take place next month.

Speaking in Kabul, Mr Hague said he saw encouraging signs of progress, and reiterated the UK’s commitment to a long-term partnership with Afghanistan based on diplomacy, trade and development.

He said: “By 2015, there will be no UK troops in Afghanistan in combat roles, but we will continue to work closely with the Afghan government and people for many years to come.”

The ministers also visited Helmand Province, where most of the UK military and civilian efforts are based, as well as the UAE forces.

“In Helmand, we saw the very real security progress being made by the contribution and sacrifice of Afghan forces together with their UK, UAE and international allies,” Mr Hague said. “We remain committed to the International Security Assistance Force campaign and the transition process.”

Relations between the UAE and the UK have ramped up with the establishment of a task force last June that meets every three months.

Robert Tinline, the head of consular services for the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, said recently that the meetings, which were at a ministerial level, were a “huge engagement”.

He added that day-to-day co-operation rather than a once yearly meeting helped to improve the consular relationship.

The task force meeting in May, Mr Tinline said, “was very productive. We worked together on a number of issues”.

The most recent meeting was held on Wednesday in London. Dr Anwar Gargash, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, led the UAE delegation. The issues discussed included improved trade ties, stronger defence co-operation and better co-ordination on foreign policy issues. At the next meeting, the task force will discuss ways to move all issues forward.

Meanwhile, naval co-operation is set to increase in the coming week. On Tuesday, the flagship of the British navy, HMS Albion, will dock at Mina Zayed until July 2. An additional five British royal navy ships will be in the capital to conduct naval exercises with the UAE Navy and Marines.

hhamid@thenational.ae