Sheikh Khalifa's trip will strengthen UK-UAE ties

British foreign secretary William Hague says UK is committed to forging new links and strengthening existing ties with the UAE.

Britain's foreign secretary William Hague gestures as he arrives for an EU foreign ministers meeting at the Kirchberg Conference Center in Luxembourg, Monday, April 22, 2013. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
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DUBAI // The British foreign secretary, William Hague, says he and the prime minister, David Cameron, are passionate believers in the good relations that exist between their country and the UAE.

Mr Hague, speaking on the eve of the historic state visit to the UK by the President, Sheikh Khalifa, said: “We were determined for a long time that if we came into government we would do our utmost from the United Kingdom to strengthen our links and expand the many strong links between our peoples, our businesses, our governments, and that has been reciprocated. Those links are being intensified all the time.

“One symbol of that was the visit here two and a half years ago of her majesty the queen and Prince Philip. Next week the queen will welcome His Highness the President Sheikh Khalifa to London, and I know that is also going to be a very successful state visit.”

Mr Hague, who has been holding talks with UAE leaders during a short visit to the country, was speaking at a reception at the British Embassy in Dubai to mark the queen’s birthday. A similar event was held at the embassy in Abu Dhabi earlier in the week.

The British ambassador, Dominic Jermey, said at the Dubai event: “His Highness Sheikh Khalifa’s state visit to the UK next week celebrates a decades-old friendship between the UK and UAE that will extend long into the future.

“The visit will be a significant personal moment in the warm relationship between President Khalifa and the queen, as well as a milestone in the bilateral relationship between our two countries.”

He said the trip would demonstrate the importance the British people, their government and the queen attached to the relationship.

“The ties between our nations draw strength from the links between our people, ranging from our thriving educational and tourism links to our growing investment in each other’s economies.

“Our practical cooperation and bond of friendship have never been stronger.”

Edward Hobart, the UK’s consul general in Dubai, described the “highly anticipated” visit as a milestone and a testimony to the strength of the friendship between the UK and the UAE at the very highest level. “It reflects the special relationship of not only our two royal families, but also the links between our businesses, institutions and people – links that have emerged as a result of a unique history of over 200 years,” he added.

Mr Hague discussed the historic ties between the UAE and the UK and ways to enhance them during a meeting on Wednesday with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai. Afterwards both spoke about the talks on Twitter.

Sheikh Mohammed posted a photo of the meeting and tweeted: “Just had a meeting with William Hague, Britain’s foreign secretary. We discussed bilateral relations & regional issues.”

Mr Hague tweeted: “Excellent meeting with HH Sheikh Mohammed in Dubai. A man with a vision in a city of the future.”

Mr Hague is the second senior British political leader to visit the UAE this month – last week London mayor Boris Johnson met government and business leaders in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Mr Johnson said during his visit: “This is a historic relationship that has been deepened over many years and we’re very honoured to be receiving His Highness Sheikh Khalifa in the next few weeks.”

The President will be accompanied by a high-powered delegation.

Mr Hobart said: “From the UK side we are very, very pleased with the collection of senior leaders from the emirates who are accompanying his highness.”

He said the visit would assist him in his efforts to support British interests in Dubai and the Northern Emirates. “I couldn’t ask for more in terms of giving us the platform to continue doing what we are to support our security, commercial, police-to-police and people-to-people cultural links,” he added.