UK: Queen's UAE trip doesn't signify shift away from Israel

British Embassy denies 'Telegraph' report which claimed Foreign Office said Britain would "take on board" Arab foreign policy.

November 25, 2010 12:47
3 minute read.
Queen Elizabeth II visits Abu Dhabi

queen elizabeth abu dhabi 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)


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The Queen's visit to the United Arab Emirates does not signify a British policy shift away from Israel, the British Embassy in Tel Aviv said in a statement Thursday, in response to a report by The Daily Telegraph.

The embassy stressed that the UK is a "firm friend of Israel and we remain wholly committed to Israel’s security and to helping her reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians."

UAE readies for Queen's first visit in 30 years

The Telegraph report had quoted British Foreign Office officials as saying that the Queen's five-day state visit to the UAE shows that Britain plans to "take on board" the goals of Arab foreign policy as well as improve diplomatic and trade ties with Arab states.

The British embassy statement also stressed that the UK would not alter policy to reflect Arab concerns. "UK foreign policy on issues in the region -  including on the Middle East peace process and Iran -  is made on the basis of the UK’s national interest. The UK very much shares Israel's concern over the potential risk posed by a nuclear Iran," the statement read.

One diplomat was quoted by the Telegraph as saying, "We have to respond to what Gulf States want. If we want a long-term partnership on foreign policy, then changes in our stance have to be part of it."

However, the embassy maintained that there was "no contradiction" between strengthening ties with partners in the Gulf, and support of Israel.

Other officials quoted in the Telegraph report had also said that British policies on settlements, the Second Lebanon War and Operation Cast Lead were "motivators" for radical Islam, and that Hague's Foreign Office has criticized Israel's government under Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron more than it had under the Labour party.

In Abu Dhabi, British Foreign Secretary William Hague is expected to sign a number of pacts including a nuclear cooperation accord with Emirati leaders. The UAE's first nuclear reactors are being built by a South Korean consortium with the first phase expected to begin operations in 2017.

In an apparent jab at Iran's nuclear standoff with the West, Hague praised the UAE's nuclear program is "based on transparency and international cooperation."

"It is a model that we would encourage other states in the Middle East to emulate," he wrote in the Dubai-based Gulf News on Wednesday.

Iran has said that it would strike Western interests in the Middle East, should Western countries strike their nuclear plants. There are 100,000 British residents in the UAE.

Queen Elizabeth visits giant mosque

The Queen toured one of the world's largest mosques Wednesday in her visit to the UAE, a country with deep British ties.

The 84-year-old monarch wore a white hat covered by a gold scarf at Abu Dhabi's Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque, part of a massive marble complex that contains the tomb of the late Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the first president of the UAE after it gained statehood following more than 100 years as a British protectorate.

The queen, accompanied by her husband Prince Philip and Emirati leaders, paused for a moment outside the mosque to remove her shoes. Her outfit for the visit also included white gloves and an ankle-length white dress and coat. She made no comments as journalists looked on.

Britain's historical links to the area stretch back to the 19th century. The UAE became a nation in 1971 after more than a century under British protection as part of a truce to protect ships sailing the important trade routes to India. Britain also played a key role in building the UAE military and other institutions.

The Queen plans to travel Thursday to neighboring Oman. Her schedule in the UAE includes formally launching a project for a new National Museum, which is being developed by partners including the British Museum.

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