Britain moves towards closer ties with UAE, India: Hague

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Britain launched a "taskforce" with the United Arab Emirates Thursday to boost bilateral ties and premier David Cameron will seek a similar initiative with India in an upcoming visit, a minister said.

In a speech in London, Foreign Secretary William Hague said the UAE taskforce will hold its first meeting later Thursday as it seeks to strengthen ties "across the board", including in education, culture, trade and defence.

"I can announce today that the prime minister has launched a joint taskforce with the United Arab Emirates as part of our efforts to elevate links with the Gulf," Hague said in a keynote address on the new government's foreign policy.

He gave no details of who would be on the taskforce or what it would involve, but it is likely to to comprise senior officials from both sides, an official said on condition of anonymity.

Cameron visited Abu Dhabi earlier this month and after a meeting with President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan he praised the "deep friendship" between the two countries based on a shared history and "common future".

"We are committed to strengthening our cooperation on defence and security, as long-standing friends with shared vital interests," said Cameron, who took office at the head of a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition in May.

On Thursday, Hague indicated that Britain would be seeking similar initiatives to the taskforce with other countries, including India, which he told the BBC the prime minister would be visiting in one month's time.

"We are actively exploring the scope for similar initiatives with other countries, including a visit by the prime minister to India to identify how we can forge a partnership for the 21st century," Hague said in his speech.

Foreign Office minister Jeremy Browne would also visit Latin America and Southeast Asia "shortly", and there would be a "renewed focus" on ties with Japan and the further development of Britain's partnership with China, he said.

"We must also work harder at developing our partnerships in Africa with South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya and look for new opportunities in emerging markets there," the foreign secretary said.

© 2010 AFP

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