New Australian ambassador finds UAE 'open and tolerant'

Australia's new ambassador to the UAE has forecast robust future relations between the countries, notably in the environmental and political spheres.

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ABU DHABI // Australia's new ambassador to the UAE has forecast robust future relations between the countries, notably in the environmental and political spheres. "So far what I have seen is a society that is open and tolerant, and that is something that Australia values," Doug Trappett said in an interview. "I have also been impressed because it is not easy for any nation to achieve a stable, vibrant and cohesive society."

Mr Trappett was named as ambassador to the UAE and Qatar in August, replacing Jeremy Bruer who had been in the post for four years. This week he presented his credentials to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, signalling the official beginning of his new post. "In recent years, political contacts expanded, and with that has come even greater levels of trust and co-operation," Mr Trappett said. "The defence relations co-operation is close and growing. The future is bright from here."

Traditionally, the Australia-UAE relationship hinged on commercial ties. This has recently expanded to include environmental, political and military co-operation. Since December, 250 Australian defence force staff have been stationed at Al Minhad Air Base in Dubai, where the country's regional military headquarters is based. In the past year, Masdar, Abu Dhabi's future energy initiative, became a founding member of the Australian-led Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute and Australia was among the active supporters for the UAE's successful bid to host the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena).

The foundations for the relationship were formed "on strong commercial ties", Mr Trappett said. "Three hundred Australian companies have offices in the UAE. Those sorts of things don't happen overnight." Mr Trappett said he expected educational links to develop in the coming years, along with the high-level political dialogue between the two countries. Over the past year alone, the Australian prime minister, Kevin Rudd, the foreign minister, Stephen Smith, and the governor-general, Quentin Bryce, have all visited the Emirates.

A first Australia-UAE Dialogue was held in the capital in March, bringing together business, government, media and academic leaders to discuss bilateral relations. Preparations are under way to host the 2010 meeting in Australia. The number of Australian expatriates living in the UAE is estimated to be more than 15,000. The UAE is Australia's largest trading partner in the Gulf, and the two countries are also involved in work on a free trade agreement. A first meeting between GCC foreign ministers and their Australian counterpart is also scheduled for next year.

Mr Trappett, 42, previously held the position of director of the Thailand and Philippines section at the department of foreign affairs and trade. He also served as deputy head of mission at the Australian Embassy to Myanmar.