DUBAI // UAE aircraft and their pilots have "made a huge difference to the Libya operation", a British minister has said.
Alistair Burt, the British foreign office minister responsible for the Middle East and South Asia, spoke yesterday at the British Consulate in Dubai of the "extremely close" ties between the UK and the UAE, and said the Emirates was taking a more prominent role in regional affairs. "It's not just in defence where the relationship is good, but also the commercial relationship where we are on target to hit £12billion (Dh70.33bn) in bilateral trade by 2015," Mr Burt said.
He said the UAE played a pivotal role in supporting the UN resolution for a no-fly zone to protect civilians in Libya, but he would not comment on specific operational issues.
Mr Burt also thanked the entire UAE Armed Forces for their work in Libya and Afghanistan.
"In Libya, there was a clear will for action to be taken to protect civilians, especially from the Arab League and countries in the region," he said.
With most of Libya's cities now under its control, the National Transitional Council is working to subdue the remnants of Col Muammar Qaddafi's forces.
Mr Burt said the situation in Syria was more complicated because different Arab nations had different relations with the country. More than 2,200 have been killed there since protests began on March 15, according to the UN, while human rights groups have said more than 10,000 people are behind bars.
"In Syria, things moved slower and more time was given to President Bashar Al Assad and his regime to change," Mr Burt said.
"Arab countries are different among each other, with different tribal make-ups, different influences, and the Arab Spring has been different in each of the countries involved."
Asked about the role the UAE could play in the Syrian crisis, Mr Burt said: "The Gulf countries and the GCC have a strong role to play.
"The UAE has a very strong sense of responsibility and has been supporting international efforts on economic sanctions."
He said those sanctions had been imposed on some members of the Syrian leadership so as not to place more hardships on the country's citizens, and to stop the regime blaming the outside world for the problems of its people.