UAE and UK celebrate shared beliefs at King Charles's coronation

Our nations are linked by leaders' histories, personal friendships and deepest shared values, says ambassador to London

King Charles at Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi in 2007. The monarch has made religious tolerance and understanding a cornerstone of his personal philosophy. Reuters
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When King Charles III receives the orb, sceptre and ring at his coronation in Westminster Abbey on Saturday, millions around the world will relish the pageantry of the occasion.

The coronation offers a moment for us to reflect on how mutual interests and shared values bind the ruling generations of our countries.

For decades, the new British king has championed interfaith relations and worked hard to set the world on a path of hope for a sustainable future.

In fact, King Charles has been a visionary for more than half a century.

He made his first speech on the environment in 1968, years before the world had heard of the term “global warming”.

Then, in 1970 at the age of 21, he spoke of the dangers that mankind faced.

“At this moment, with the horrifying effects of pollution in all its cancerous forms … there is air pollution from smoke and fumes discharged by factories and from gases pumped out by endless cars and aeroplanes.”

Today, King Charles is widely regarded as the godfather of Cop, the UN Conference of the Parties, after he hosted an environmental conference aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia in the Amazon delta in 1991.

His appeal to the Brazilian president at the time was passionate. “We are literally the last generation which can save the rainforest from total destruction,” he said.

That meeting paved the way for the first Earth Summit the following year, where the first Cop was born.

And today, 32 years later, the United Arab Emirates has the honour of the presidency of Cop28, where the world will once again assess the measures it has taken to combat climate change and renew its ambitions.

As conveners, our nation has the highest duty of leadership, for it has never been more important to foster a spirit of international collaboration and enterprise through our shared values.

We are meeting that challenge. Our country is already adopting innovative strategies for economic diversification away from oil and will support those countries most vulnerable to climate change and least able to protect themselves.

The late Queen Elizabeth II served as monarch during a formative period of our country’s history and met our Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, on her first visit to the UAE in 1979.

During her second visit in 2010, Queen Elizabeth emphasised to the world again our mutual interest in dialogue and tolerance by visiting the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi.

It was a hugely significant event. As Supreme Governor of the Church of England, Queen Elizabeth was the first leader of another religion to visit the mosque.

Six years later, King Charles followed his mother’s example, accompanied by his wife, Queen Consort Camilla, then the Duchess of Cornwall.

Today, in the spirit of fraternity which has been passed down through the generations, and led by President Sheikh Mohamed, we have opened our monument to religious tolerance and friendship, the Abrahamic Family House.

For King Charles, spirituality and the promotion of interfaith relations have long been abiding passions.

At his accession ceremony, two days after his mother’s death, King Charles committed to become Defender of the Faith, a title bestowed on every English monarch since Henry VIII. But he has always been open about his wider intent.

“I mind about the inclusion of other people’s faiths and their freedom to worship in this country. And it’s always seemed to me that, while at the same time being Defender of the Faith, you can also be protector of faiths,” he once said.

King Charles has always had a passionate curiosity about Islam, particularly because he sees the faith complementing his own view of the environment.

Dancing King Charles hits the dancefloor on Jewish centre visit

Dancing King Charles hits the dancefloor on Jewish centre visit

He is comfortable citing the Quran for explicitly identifying that the natural world and mankind are entwined, he said, “precisely because there is no separation between the natural world and God”.

King Charles has gone so far as to suggest that many more people might benefit from “an appreciation of the Islamic tradition's deep respect for the timeless traditions of the natural order … and help us in the West to rethink, and for the better, our practical stewardship of man and his environment”.

Throughout, he has always admired the UAE and the example set by its leadership.

On his last visit, King Charles paid a special tribute to the nation’s pioneering humanitarian efforts.

“The UAE is second to none in its generosity. This is one facet of Sheikh Zayed’s remarkable legacy.”

Such deep family respect binds our countries.

Today, the dream is indeed a reality and our ties with the UK grow stronger as King Charles begins a new Carolean era in Britain, and Sheikh Mohamed sets an inspiring vision for the Emirates in the 21st century and beyond.

The UK and the UAE have always been close allies and partners through practical, shared interests in security, defence, trade, education and the environment.

Together, we stand for diplomacy over conflict, partnerships over unilateralism, and dialogue over confrontation.

The strength and vitality of our relationship has grown immeasurably since the signing of the original Treaty of Friendship in 1971.

Today, more than 100,000 Britons live in the Emirates and more than half a million visit each year. At the same time, we feel at home in the UK, where thousands of Emiratis study at British universities and hundreds of thousands of Emiratis choose to visit every year.

The total trade between our countries amounts to £18.9 billion a year and the future looks brighter with agreements to develop life sciences, hydrogen energy, space and other industrial sectors, which will mean jobs and investment for all.

But let us pause to celebrate that we are tied by something more intimate in this important year of renewal — our leaders' histories, our personal friendships and our deepest shared values.

Mansoor Abulhoul is UAE ambassador to the United Kingdom

Published: May 04, 2023, 9:46 AM
Updated: May 06, 2023, 4:21 AM