UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly heads to Gulf and Jordan to boost ties

He will unveil £30 million of funding for refugees in the region, to be delivered over the next three years

UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly is visiting Qatar on a three-day trip that will also include Kuwait and Jordan. PA
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Britain's Foreign Secretary James Cleverly will arrive in Qatar on Tuesday on the first leg of a three-day regional tour that will also take him to Kuwait and Jordan.

On his first stop, Mr Cleverly will meet Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani to discuss key regional issues and the progress made since the inaugural Strategic Dialogue in February 2023.

He will also hold talks with Qatar’s Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Khalid bin Mohammed Al Attiyah.

The British Foreign Secretary will then travel to Kuwait where he will have an audience with His Highness the Crown Prince, Sheikh Meshal Al Sabah.

The two men will discuss ways to “explore opportunities to strengthen co-operation”, the Foreign Office in London said.

Mr Cleverly will conclude his brief tour of the region with a visit to Jordan where he will announce up to £1.5 million of funding for civil society organisations helping women and girls.

His stopover will include a meeting with representatives from UNHCR (the UN’s refugee agency) and the World Food Programme, which will see him unveil £30 million of funding over the next three years to support refugees.

Jordan has the second-highest share of refugees per capita in the world, with an estimated total of 1.3 million.

Mr Cleverly's visit to Qatar, Kuwait and Jordan signals British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's eagerness to boost ties with key partners in the region.

All three countries are also important to the UK for trade and investment.

The tour follows the British government's announcement that nationals of the Gulf states and Jordan will benefit from the new Electronic Travel Authorisation scheme, which will make travel to the UK less expensive and easier for visitors.

“I am delighted to be back in the Middle East,” Mr Cleverly said before his arrival in Doha. “The UK’s mutually beneficial relationships with the Gulf and Jordan continue to thrive. We have a bright future together.

“From working together on shared goals like developing stronger trade ties, security and delivering crucial support to vulnerable communities, I am proud of how we are collaborating for the benefit of us all,” he added.

In June, the UK government announced that visitors from Jordan and the Gulf will be able to enter the country for just £10 ($12.40) under the ETA scheme.

The changes will remove the visa requirement for nationals of Jordan and Gulf Co-operation Council states – Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia – who wish to visit the UK. It brings the rules for them in line with those for other visitors, including US and Australian passport holders.

The ETA scheme will replace the existing system for Gulf nationals, who pay £30 per visit under the current Electronic Visa Wavier scheme, and Jordanian citizens, who pay £100 for a visit visa.

Qatari nationals will be the first to benefit from the cheaper programme in October, with travellers from other GCC states and Jordan qualifying in February 2024.

Updated: July 26, 2023, 7:01 AM