The UAE's Am­bas­sador to the UK talks trade, cul­ture, and re­la­tion­ship build­ing

Since his ap­point­ment as the UAE’s Am­bas­sador to the Court of St James in 2016, His Ex­cel­lency Su­laiman Hamid Al Mazroui has worked to boost ties be­tween the the UAE and UK. Ian Fairser­vice met with the am­bas­sador to talk trade, cul­ture and diplo­macy

Gulf Business - - STYLE AND SUBSTANCE: -

VIS­IT­ING THE UAE AM­BAS­SADOR to the Court of St. James, His Ex­cel­lency Su­laiman Hamid Al Mazroui, at 1 Grosvenor Cres­cent, he is jus­ti­fi­ably proud of the mis­sion's new home. The em­bassy was moved from the pre­vi­ous lo­ca­tion at Prince's Gate a year ago this month. The im­pres­sive build­ing oc­cu­pies the cor­ner plot of Grosvenor Cres­cent over­look­ing the gar­dens of Grosvenor Square. It has been taste­fully ren­o­vated and re­stored to its orig­i­nal splen­dour – and in the process many orig­i­nal fea­tures such as the im­pres­sive mo­saic floors have been ex­posed and brought back to life.

Af­ter a tour of the new build­ing, we set­tled down to dis­cuss His Ex­cel­lency's role and his thoughts on the fu­ture of UK-UAE re­la­tions. "The re­la­tion­ship be­tween the UK and the UAE has de­vel­oped from strength to strength over the last 47 years," he said.

"We have seen this re­la­tion­ship grow in all as­pects; po­lit­i­cal, eco­nomic, cul­tural and con­sular.

"On the po­lit­i­cal side, both coun­tries share ef­forts on com­bat­ing ex­trem­ism and ter­ror­ism. Both coun­tries fought side by side in Afghanistan, against Daesh and to end piracy at sea.

"On the eco­nomic level, trade is grow­ing. It cur­rently stands at GBP17bn (Dhs81.5bn / $22.2bn). The tar­get set by both gov­ern­ments is to reach GBP22bn (Dhs105.4bn / $28.7bn) by the year 2020. The UAE is one of the largest ex­port mar­kets out­side the EU for the UK goods. This is due to world-class in­fra­struc­ture in sea ports and ship­ping in the UAE.

"What's more, some 1.5 mil­lion Bri­tish tourists visit the UAE ev­ery year and more than 120,000 UK cit­i­zens live in the UAE."

"There are ap­prox­i­mately 3,000 Emi­rati stu­dents at­tend­ing UK ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions in var­i­ous spe­cial­i­sa­tions, and there are dozens of Bri­tish aca­demic in­sti­tu­tions in the UAE.

"There are also hun­dreds of UAE cit­i­zens who visit the UK for med­i­cal treat­ment. The em­bassy's med­i­cal of­fice pro­vides ad­vanced ser­vices in guid­ance and fol­lowups with var­i­ous UK hos­pi­tals where Emi­rati pa­tients re­ceive med­i­cal care." With the UK be­ing such an im­por­tant des­ti­na­tion for many in the UAE, the thorny is­sue of Brexit has of­ten been a keen topic of con­ver­sa­tion. And with the de­tails of the UK's with­drawal from the EU still be­ing ne­go­ti­ated, I was cu­ri­ous how the am­bas­sador sees the sit­u­a­tion.

"The Brexit is­sues are con­stantly mon­i­tored by our em­bassy diplo­mats and spe­cial­ists, though we be­lieve that the UAE-UK re­la­tion­ship will be the same whether the UK is in or out of the EU," he said.

"We wel­come any de­ci­sion the Bri­tish peo­ple and gov­ern­ment take on Brexit."

As we sit in the em­bassy's new of­fices, it's hard not to be im­pressed by the build­ing, which was in­au­gu­rated by His High­ness Sheikh Ab­dul­lah bin Zayed Al Nahyan in Novem­ber 2017. And as the am­bas­sador ex­plained, the new home says a lot about the UAE's pres­ence in the UK.

"The new em­bassy build­ing lends it­self to the im­por­tance of the role the em­bassy plays in the UK-UAE re­la­tion­ship," he said.

"It pro­vides a great work­ing en­vi­ron­ment for our diplo­mats, as well as be­ing a prom­i­nent lo­ca­tion with the re­quired pres­tige."

Con­tin­u­ing the theme of prime real es­tate, our con­ver­sa­tion turned to the en­dur­ing ap­peal of the UK for Emi­rati in­vestors – es­pe­cially Lon­don.

"For UAE cit­i­zens, Lon­don is one of the most im­por­tant and de­sir­able cities in Europe," em­pha­sised the am­bas­sador.

"The UK real es­tate mar­ket is one of the at­trac­tive sec­tors for UAE in­vestors,

for both in­vest­ments and per­sonal use. Cur­rently it's a buyer's mar­ket due to the un­cer­tainty of Brexit, and as such, we are see­ing a rel­a­tive surge in prop­erty ac­qui­si­tion by Emi­ratis."

But it's not just Lon­don that is in in­vestors' sights, with other cities also gar­ner­ing in­ter­est. In­ter­est boosted by the fo­cus UAE air­lines put on the UK.

"While the UAE cit­i­zens, in­vestors, stu­dents and pa­tients pre­fer Lon­don due to its cos­mopoli­tan ap­peal, other ma­jor cities also at­tract them," ex­plained Al Mazroui.

"It's im­por­tant to men­tion that Emi­rates Air­line main­tains daily flights to Lon­don, Manch­ester, New­cas­tle, Glas­gow and Ed­in­burgh. There are also daily Eti­had flights to Lon­don."

As we moved to dis­cuss Al Mazroui's pre­vi­ous role as am­bas­sador to the King­dom of Bel­gium and the GrandDuchy of Lux­em­bourg, we spoke about his work in Brus­sels – the de facto cap­i­tal of the EU – that se­cured visa-free travel for Emi­ratis in Schen­gen and eight other Euro­pean coun­tries.

Nat­u­rally, I was cu­ri­ous to know whether he'll be push­ing for the same for the UK.

"De­spite the fact that the UK is one of the most pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tions for UAE cit­i­zens, they un­for­tu­nately still re­quire nor­mal en­try visas or elec­tronic ones," he said.

"We be­lieve that UAE cit­i­zens wish­ing to visit the UK de­serve to have visas waived – es­pe­cially as the UAE pass­port is now wildly ac­cepted in around 160 coun­tries visa free, in­clud­ing the EU coun­tries.

"This will, no doubt, in­crease tourism and busi­ness for the UK."

As we ap­proached the end of our con­ver­sa­tion, we touched on the cul­tural re­la­tion­ship that has been grow­ing be­tween the UAE and UK in re­cent years. It's a re­la­tion­ship that saw His High­ness Sheikh Ab­dul­lah bin Zayed Al Nahyan in­au­gu­rate the Sheikh Zayed bin Sul­tan Al Nahyan Gallery for Europe and the Mid­dle East at the Bri­tish Mu­seum in Septem­ber.

"This was a ma­jor suc­cess for the UAE-UK cul­tural re­la­tion­ship," beamed the am­bas­sador.

"This achieve­ment is also timely as it was planned to co­in­cide with the Year of Zayed, cel­e­brated in the UAE this year.

"The sig­nif­i­cance of the Sheikh Zayed Gallery stems from the fact that it will al­ways re­mind vis­i­tors of the UAE founder's pas­sion for his­tory and cul­ture."

It's the lat­est in a long-line of suc­cesses for a re­la­tion­ship that con­tin­ues to blos­som.

And as I left the Mis­sion's new home, it was clear the grandeur of the build­ing is be­ing matched by the hard work and am­bi­tions of the am­bas­sador and his team.

The new Em­bassy build­ing lends it­self to the im­por­tance of the role the Em­bassy plays in the UK- UAE re­la­tion­ship. It pro­vides a great work­ing en­vi­ron­ment for our diplo­mat s .

Ian Fairser­vice with HE Su­laiman Hamid Al Mazroui at the UAE Em­bassy in Lon­don

His High­ness Sheikh Ab­dul­lah bin Zayed Al Nahyan in­au­gu­rated the Em­bassy's new of­fices in Novem­ber 2017

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