The twelfth meeting of the UAE-UK Taskforce was hosted on 21 October in Abu Dhabi by His Excellency Dr Anwar Gargash, the UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs. The UK was represented by FCO Minister for the Middle East and North Africa, Tobias Ellwood.
The Taskforce was established in July 2010 following the visits of British Prime Minister David Cameron to the UAE, and UAE Foreign Minister His Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan to the UK, with the intention of further strengthening ties between the two countries. It remains an important mechanism in the bilateral relationship.
The Taskforce discussed the strong commercial relationship between the two countries, including significant Emirati investments in the UK agreed over the last few months. Representatives of the UAE-UK Business Council, His Excellency Nasser al Suwaidi and Mr Richard Oliver, updated the Taskforce on the outcomes from the Business Council meeting held the day before and highlighted the ongoing success of the Council since its establishment in 2011. This includes making progress towards the joint target of increasing bilateral trade to AED 71.2 billion by 2015. The Taskforce also discussed the Double Taxation Agreement, explored opportunities for partnership in renewable energy in the developing world, and saw the signing of an Air Services Agreement.
The Ministers acknowledged the success of the electronic visa waiver system for Emirati citizens launched by the UK in January 2014 and discussed ways to further streamline the system. Also discussed was cooperation in tackling crime, in particular the repatriation of criminal proceeds.
Educational cooperation was on the agenda, with agreement reached on the need to sign a Memorandum of Understanding on Higher Education; the recognition of UK qualifications in the UAE and a Memorandum of Understanding on the British Council were also discussed.
The Ministers agreed to improve coordination between the two countries on development and humanitarian issues.
The two Ministers also discussed regional issues and ways to confront the common threat of ISIL throughout the region. The Ministers agreed that both countries must work together to combat extremism. The Ministers confirmed that in both Iraq and Syria, the UK and UAE are determined to support those who are committed to inclusive, non-sectarian government and the rule of law, and who are on the front line in resisting terrorists and extremists.
Speaking after the Taskforce Dr Gargash said:
The UAE values its relationship with the UK and our Taskforce meetings have been instrumental in helping to maintain an open and sustained dialogue between our countries.
Mr Ellwood said:
The UK and the UAE enjoy a close partnership based on deep historical links and shared interests. The Taskforce, now in its fourth year, is important to both our countries. I am pleased that we were able to agree to strengthen our partnerships across education, renewable energy and investment. We also agreed the vital importance of our shared endeavour in tackling the threat posed by ISIL.