Abu Dhabi, London: Joint defence partnership reflects strong ties
ABU DHABI - Britain and the United Arab Emirates agreed on a defence partnership and to boost the British military presence in the Gulf state, they said as Prime Minister David Cameron ended a two-day visit Tuesday.
In a joint statement, the two countries said that they would "work together to deepen our defence ties" for the "security of the UAE and wider Gulf region".
They agreed to "establish an industrial defence partnership that involves close collaboration around Typhoon (fighter jets) and a number of new technologies," it added.
The two sides also agreed to increase joint military and training exercises and invest "in the British military presence in the UAE," without giving any details on what that might entail.
The announcement came after Cameron held talks with UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan aimed at boosting economic ties, specifically in the defence industry, the official WAM news agency reported.
Cameron's office said the prime minister was to accompany senior Emirati officials on an inspection of RAF Typhoons stationed at a UAE airbase as part of a training exercise.
The United Arab Emirates had shown an interest in ordering up to 60 Typhoon Eurofighters to replace their ageing French Mirages, according to the statement.Cameron was expected to use the trip to push Britain's defence industry and to have a dialogue about human rights, an issue he has come under fire for at home.
In an interview with the BBC on Tuesday, Cameron said human rights issues were on the agenda in the talks but that the differences between countries should be noted.
"I'm a believer in the growth of democracy and human rights but we should recognise that all countries are different. They have different pathways, different histories, different cultures," he said.
"And we should recognise in many of our strong Gulf partners, for instance in Kuwait you have a Kuwaiti parliament, you have the growth of building blocks of open societies and democracies and that's the case in the United Arab Emirates as well."
He also defended doing military deals with Gulf states.
"(The UAE) stood with us and fought with us in the Libya campaign to help bring freedom to that country from the tyranny of Colonel (Moamer) Gathafi," Cameron told the BBC.
"Every country in the world in my view has a right to self defence. But you cannot expect every country in the world to produce every tank, every ship, every plane that is necessary for that self-defence."
"I make absolutely no apologies for the fact that I am here talking to our friends in the Emirates, our friends in Saudi Arabia about defence partnerships because their security is important for our security, and this is vital for British jobs."
He is expected in Saudi Arabia later Tuesday before travelling onwards in the Middle East. His itinerary for the rest of the trip remains undisclosed for security reasons.