x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Prime minister David Cameron praises Britain’s ‘strong friendship’ with UAE ahead of visit

The prime minister says the UK and UAE have shared interests ahead of a visit.

The National staff

ABU DHABI // British prime minister David Cameron has praised the “incredibly strong friendship” between his country and the UAE ahead of his visit on Saturday.

The Conservative party leader believes these ties have been built through a long-held, deep understanding and shared interests.

“Like all good friends, we stick together on the things that really matter – keeping our people safe and giving them the benefits of a growing economy,” he told The National’s Arabic-language sister paper, Al Ittihad.

“I am absolutely focused on making Britain’s economy strong again ... and the UAE is a vital partner in this, as one of the world’s leading investors in Britain.

“We are very proud of the major role that companies like DP World play in our economy but we want to go further, and so we are introducing a new electronic visa waiver to make it easier for Emirati nationals to come to Britain to visit and do business.”

It was revealed this week that, from early next year, Emiratis will be able to go online 48 hours before departure to the UK to get an electronic entry visa.

This replaces the existing time-consuming system of providing biometric information, booking an appointment at a visa application centre and handing over an applicant’s passport.

Mr Cameron said British businesses had a part to play in the UAE.

“I want British business to contribute to and benefit from the dynamism and potential of the UAE and Gulf region,” he said.

“I am proud of the role that British businesses like Shell and BP have played in this country over many years.

“I now want to support new partnerships, including helping Britain’s best and most innovative companies develop the skills and expertise of partners in the UAE.”

Mr Cameron has also thrown his support behind the UAE’s peaceful bid to regain control of its three islands, Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs, which have been occupied by Iran since the eve of the UAE’s formation nearly 42 years ago.

“The United Kingdom supports a peaceful settlement to the dispute between the UAE and the Islamic Republic of Iran over the Abu Musa, Greater Tunb and the Lesser Tunb islands,” Mr Cameron said.

“This should be achieved through direct negotiations or by referring the matter to the International Court of Justice and should be in full accordance with international law.”

He also discussed security issues in the Arabian Gulf, including concerns about “Iran’s nuclear programme and its destabilising role in the region, to the threat that Islamist extremists present across the region and the world, and the importance of stable, well-run government in places like Egypt, Yemen and Syria”.

“On all these issues Britain and the UAE share strategic objectives and close working relationships.”

Mr Cameron said the situation in Syria was leading to a rise in extremism.

“I am appalled by the humanitarian catastrophe overtaking the Syrian people and I am profoundly concerned by the growth of extremism,” he said.

“Terrorists are now being trained in Syria to direct attacks against us all. When I come to the UAE, I know I am with friends and we stand together against the threat of extremism and terrorism.

“All of this means we now need to come together to find a political solution that ends the conflict.

“The next step is to get both sides to the table. That means making clear to [the Syrian president, Bashar Al] Assad that he will not win a military victory, creating the basis for a political transition from Assad’s vicious rule and strengthening the moderate opposition, which is committed to an inclusive, united and peaceful Syria.

“The world must take responsibility to end this terrible conflict, which has destroyed so many lives, is breeding dangerous extremism in the absence of proper government and threatens Syria’s neighbours.”

On the matter of ongoing talks between the West and Iran over its nuclear programme, Mr Cameron said sanctions would remain in place against Tehran.

“We are not prepared to accept Iran developing a nuclear weapon,” he said. The prime minister said Britain and its allies “have pursued a twin-track policy of pressure, through arguably the toughest sanctions regime in history, and negotiation if Iran is prepared to engage seriously.”

He added that “although prospects have improved, we are under no illusions – the sanctions regime stays in place”.

Mr Cameron is due to arrive in the UAE on Saturday after talks at the Commonwealth summit in Sri Lanka.