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.

By JONNY PAUL
November 26, 2010 01:43
4 minute read.
Queen Elizabeth II visits Abu Dhabi

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

 
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LONDON – Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to the United Arab Emirates does not signify a British foreign policy shift away from Israel, the Foreign Office told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.

The Foreign Office denied it was in any way changing its policy to reflect Arab concerns, contrary to a report in Thursday’s Daily Telegraph.

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The Telegraph had quoted a number of Foreign Office officials as saying that the queen’s five-day state visit 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.

A Foreign Office spokesman told the Post that UK policy in the region, including on the Middle East peace process and Iran, is made on the basis of British national interests and that it “remains committed” to Israel’s security.

“The government’s has made clear it is in the UK’s national interest to elevate our links with all our important partners in the Gulf, in diplomacy, commerce, trade, education, health, culture and defense,” the spokesman said.

“The UK very much shares Israel’s concern over the potential risk posed by a nuclear Iran,” the spokesman added.



Responding to what one diplomat said in the Telegraph – “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” – the Foreign Office said there was no contradiction.

“There is no contradiction between these two positions – between strengthening ties with partners in the Gulf, and support of Israel,” the spokesman said.

In addition, the Foreign Office denied The Associated Press report that its policies on settlements, the Second Lebanon War and Operation Cast Lead were “motivators” for radical Islam and that the Foreign Office under William Hague and Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron has criticized Israel’s government more than when the Labor party controlled 10 Downing Street. This, the spokesman said, was not mentioned at the briefing, which in any case AP had not attended.

“As the foreign secretary said during his successful visit [to Israel] earlier this month, 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,” the spokesman said.

The British Embassy in Tel Aviv reaffirmed this in a statement in which it 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.”

In Abu Dhabi, Hague is expected to sign a number of agreements 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 as “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.

“There has been no change in the government’s policy,” Hague said on Thursday. “We are working to develop relations with the Gulf states across the board, but this is not at the expense of Israel or anyone else. It is not a zero sum game. Our foreign policy will always be made in the UK’s national interest.”

The queen toured one of the world’s largest mosques on Wednesday in her visit to the UAE, a country with deep British ties. There are 100,000 British residents in the UAE.

The 84-year-old monarch wore a white hat covered by a gold scarf at Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, part of a massive marble complex that contains the tomb of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan, the first president of the UAE after it gained statehood.

Elizabeth, 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.

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 under a truce to protect ships sailing the important trade routes to India. Britain played a key role in building the UAE military and other institutions.

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