x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

UK ambassador: Sheikh Khalifa's visit will reaffirm alliance

The UK ambassador to the UAE says: I witnessed first hand the warmth of the relationship when the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh visited the UAE in 2010 and am delighted that the UK is now able to return that hospitality.

Tomorrow, UAE President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan will pay a State Visit to the UK at the invitation of Her Majesty The Queen.

I witnessed first hand the warmth of the relationship when The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh visited the UAE in 2010 and am delighted that the UK is now able to return that hospitality.

The visit demonstrates the importance our two countries attach to the bilateral relationship and will be an opportunity to reflect on how the relationship has grown in the 23 years since the UK was last graced by a UAE State Visit, when the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Sheikh Khalifas's father and founding father of the UAE, was the guest of Her Majesty.

The programme will have many moments to treasure. Most of all, I am looking forward to the moment of greeting. The President will arrive in the State Bentley to a formal dais where he and The Queen will formally greet before getting into the first of a series of open-top carriages, which then take the entourage up to Windsor Castle in procession.

I shall be in the final carriage as we sweep through the gates of Windsor for the ceremonial Royal Salute and a Guard of Honour. After that, a State Luncheon that will bring together many guests that have a keen interest in a strong and enduring relationship between the UK and UAE and several that have personally worked towards this.

Her Majesty's speech will - I'm sure - be a testament not only to her personal friendship with Sheikh Khalifa but also to the ties between our people at every level. From our businesses that have helped each others' countries become more competitive and modern, to our students who enjoy studying in each others' company and making friendships they will treasure in the future.

I am particularly pleased that Sheikh Khalifa will go to Westminster Abbey for the laying of a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior. In my office in the embassy, I have a beautiful picture of Sheikh Zayed doing exactly the same from his State Visit in 1989.

Since that time, the collaboration between our countries in foreign policy and security matters has grown enormously. From the 1950s, our armed forces fought side by side protecting UAE territory, and in more recent times we have cooperated in Libya. Our soldiers are serving bravely together in Afghanistan.

We are also committed to breaking the deadlock and ending the human suffering in Syria, as well as championing change and stability in Somalia. The imperative of meaningful international action in these and other parts of the world will be a priority for discussion during the visit.

Such an ability to collaborate on even the most difficult of issues points to the rationale behind the 1971 Treaty of Friendship between the UK and UAE which Foreign Ministers William Hague and His Highness Sheikh Abdullah reaffirmed in 2010. The treaty asserted that the two countries would, in times of need, consult each other on matters of mutual interest, promote educational, scientific and cultural cooperation, and would recognise close trade relations. That is exactly what we are doing.

Forty-two years on, and with this visit of Sheikh Khalifa, it is clear that that bond of friendship has never been stronger, and never more important. The affinity between our two countries runs in each others DNA.

I describe the UAE as a young country that has dared to dream big by turning the vision of Sheikh Zayed into reality. That vision took a desert country and transformed it into what we see today - a country full of energy and vigour, a crossroads of East and West, and at the crux of international trade and commerce.

I salute the Emirati leadership and people for this achievement and I'm proud of the British contribution - from the political agents and oil men of early last century who integrated themselves into the local culture to the 120,000 British nationals who live and work in the UAE today.

British expertise has played a role in the success of numerous iconic projects such as the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the Dubai Metro and the Burj Khalifa. And British companies like Shell, Rolls Royce, HSBC and Standard Chartered are long established - some for over 80 years. Likewise thousands of Emiratis come to the UK every year. Many are property owners and investors and thus members of the community rather than visitors.

This natural alliance has helped secure Emirati funding for major projects such as Europe's most ambitious port and logistics centre, the DP World London Gateway near the mouth of the River Thames. And of course there is Manchester City Football Club that is turning into (or returning back to its destiny, perhaps) as one of the world's greatest football teams.

Our common future also entails cooperation on future energy needs. This will involve both hydrocarbons and sustainable renewable energy and I'm pleased that the visit will take forward our already impressive collaboration - particularly between Abu Dhabi's future energy company, Masdar, and the UK Department for Energy and Climate Change.

So although there will be much pomp and ceremony in London during the visit, something the UK does so well, it is what lies beneath the pageantry that counts above everything: the enduring links that join our countries at every level.

We can look to the future of our relations with confidence and optimism and reaffirm our alliance that has already done so much to enrich the lives of both our peoples. I know this is exactly what Her Majesty the Queen and His Highness Sheikh Khalifa will be doing when they are together over the next few days.


Dominic Jermey is the UK ambassador to the UAE