The fifteenth meeting of the UAE-UK Taskforce was hosted on 16 March in London by Mr Tobias Ellwood MP, Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) Minister for the Middle East and North Africa. The UAE was represented by HE Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs.
The two Ministers agreed the importance of continued collaboration on the key political and security challenges facing the world today, and highlighted that a stable and prosperous Middle East was in all our interests. Ministers praised the strong cooperation between their two countries, and re-affirmed the need to: pursue a political solution in Yemen and address the humanitarian situation there; encourage all parties to support the political process in Syria, especially in light of atrocities committed there; and collaborate ever more closely and effectively in the fight against Daesh, in particular by countering the group’s propaganda in the online space. The Ministers commended the work of the Sawab Center and the Coalition’s Communications Cell, and welcomed the recent launch of the Coalition’s Website. The Ministers also commended the work of Hedayah, discussed the UAE and UK’s ongoing commitment to the Centre and agreed to explore the potential to build on the progress that has been made.
The Taskforce reviewed cooperation between the UK and the UAE on humanitarian issues. Mr Ellwood welcomed the UAE’s humanitarian assistance to Yemen and Syria and the collaboration and dialogue that were taking place between DFID and the UAE.
The Ministers welcomed UAE-UK cooperation on law enforcement and efforts to deepen it further, especially on: recovering proceeds of crime, terrorist financing, money laundering and extradition. They looked forward to the forthcoming Anti-Corruption Summit to be held in London on 12 May, and the Proceeds of Crime Conference to be held in Abu Dhabi on 21/22 September.
The Ministers commended the February signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the UAE and UK Space Agencies and looked forward to signing a UK-UAE Double Taxation Agreement in April to assist bilateral trade and investment.
Ministers also expressed support for fair and open competition in the aviation industry and emphasised that open skies policies have created enormous benefits to travellers and communities in Europe, the Middle East and beyond.
Consular and visa matters issues were discussed, and the Ministers welcomed and encouraged the work of the UAE-UK Consular Committee which met in London on 14 March. The Ministers reviewed the existing electronic visa waiver system for Emirati citizens and looked forward to the launch of a more streamlined, user-friendly visa waiver system in 2016.
Educational and cultural cooperation also featured on the agenda. The Ministers discussed the prospects for a UK-UAE Season of cultural exchanges between the two countries to take place in 2017. They also agreed the need to continue improving the process for the mutual recognition of qualifications between the UAE and the UK.
Speaking after the Taskforce, Dr. Gargash said,
Today we had constructive discussions that will enable us to continue making progress on a range of important bilateral topics of interest between our countries. I am also pleased with the depth of our conversations on issues related to peace and security in the Middle East, and the strong emphasis our countries place on the importance of reaching political solutions to the crises facing the region.
Mr Ellwood said,
This meeting of the UK/UAE Taskforce was very productive. I value highly our discussion of such a broad range of topics, and our review of collaboration in many areas of common interest. These discussions continue to underline the importance of working closely together to tackle threats and challenges in the region and beyond.