ABU DHABI: Buckingham Palace and the Ministry of Presidential Affairs of the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday announced that His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, has accepted an invitation from Queen Elizabeth II to pay a State Visit to the United Kingdom from April 30, to May 1st, 2013.
The visit is a further important milestone in the context of the strong bilateral relationship between the UAE and UK, which continues to strengthen and deepen. Sheikh Khalifa will be accompanied by a high level UAE government delegation that will meet with UK counterparts on the sidelines of the State Visit and will attend a number of official engagements.
Speaking on the announcement of the state visit, Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister for Foreign Affairs, said "The State Visit of His Highness, The President, at the invitation of Her Majesty the Queen, is testament not only to the deep and historic ties between the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom, but also to the immense opportunities that exist in continued co-operation between our two countries. Under the leadership of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa, the President, the UAE is committed to further building and strengthening its bilateral relationship with the UK on all levels, with a particular focus on trade, regional and global security and education." Bilateral trade between the UAE and the UK is targeted to reach Dhs70 billion (£12b) by 2015. There are around 170 scheduled flights per week between the two countries.
Around 50,000 Emiratis visit the UK each year and the UAE is a significant and dependable investor in the UK economy, injecting capital, creating jobs and contributing to long-term growth. As a result the UAE has invested over £5 billion in the UK, including the Abu Dhabi National Energy Company (TAQA)'s projects in the North Sea and the ambitious London Gateway deep sea port — the single largest job creation project in the UK, supporting 35,000 jobs. Additionally, DP World Southampton is the UK's second largest container terminal and is operated as a joint venture between DP World and Associated British Ports. The UAE's leading clean tech firm, Masdar, is a major investor in the construction of the world's largest offshore wind-farm, London Array. Emirati companies have also invested extensively in British sporting industries well as landmark infrastructure such as the Olympic venue, London's ExCeL arena.
For the UK, the UAE is the largest export market in the Middle East and North Africa, and there are around 5,000 UK businesses operating in the UAE. UK goods exports to the UAE went up by 9 per cent last year. Over 100,000 British expatriates live and work in the UAE and over 1 million British visitors travel to the UAE every year.
The strong UAE and UK relationship is also based on defending common values and ensuring peace. Emirati troops and British soldiers have served in Afghanistan for more than a decade, co-operating closely to ensure stability in the Helmand region in particular. The UAE and the UK are at the forefront of international efforts to challenge extremism, co-chairing the Countering Violent Extremism unit of the Global Counterterrorism Forum, and are increasingly collaborating on international development.
The two countries have also worked together in Libya, where both contributed to the 2011 Nato mission, and in Yemen to promote political stability and help rebuild the country's infrastructure. The UAE and the UK are also working together to combat piracy off the coast of Somalia.
The UAE and the UK share a common commitment to excellence in higher education, supported by investment from the public and private sectors of the UAE in institutions such as Oxford University, the London School of Economics and Exeter University. At the same time, the UAE's Masdar Institute, one of the world's foremost specialist centres for renewable energy research, has forged ties with Imperial College London. Edinburgh's Heriot-Watt University has had a campus in Dubai since 2005.
The State Visit of The President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa follows the 2010 State Visit by Her Majesty The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh to the United Arab Emirates in 2010. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and The Duke of Edinburgh had also paid a State Visit to the United Arab Emirates visiting The Late Sheikh Zayed in 1979. The late Sheikh Zayed himself paid a State Visit to the United Kingdom in 1989.