UK Hails Sultanate Initiatives in Finding Solutions for Region Crises

Muscat, Alistair Burt, Minister of State for the Middle East at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Head of the UK side at the Omani-British Joint Working Group affirmed that his country appreciates the efforts and initiatives taken by the Sultanate’s Government under the leadership of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said in finding solutions for the crises in the region.

In an exclusive interview with Oman News Agency (ONA), he said that the wise polices pursued by the Sultanate under the leadership of His Majesty the Sultan enabled it to become a link point in the region. He stressed his country’s keenness to consult with the Sultanate regarding issues of the region as the Sultanate’s has a good experience in dealing with various thorny issues and finding appropriate solutions to them, describing the Sultanate as “a strategic and trusted partner”.

He talked about the historic relations between the Sultanate and the United Kingdom (UK). He pointed out that these relations are growing in various areas as both sides are keen to explore more fields of cooperation. He affirmed that the UK is very keen to maintain its special relations with the Sultanate in light of the changes taking place in the world.

As for the Omani-UK joint military exercise “Swift Sword 3”, he said that the two sides have been preparing for this exercise since 2012. “This is one of the largest exercises in UK Armed Forces with participation of 5500 troops,” he explained. He added that this exercise reflects the mutual confidence between the two countries. “You cannot participate in such a large exercise unless you are working with a trusted partner,” he affirmed.

The UK Minister explained that the exercise tests the capabilities of the UK and Omani forces in dealing with various conditions. He said, “The Sultanate and the UK have strategic partnership in the field of defence and security, and they can defend and support each other”. He considered the message of this exercise is to get ready for the future challenges in the region and enhance the mutual cooperation, trust and respect.

During his interview with ONA, he touched on the Omani-British Joint Working Group, affirming that since its formation in 2010, the Group has been exerting efforts to promote the bilateral cooperation and partnership between the two friendly countries through regular meetings. He added that the Group deals with many issues, seeks to find suitable solutions to them and deals with issues related to trade and investment aspects.

As for the 14th round of the Group, which was held in Muscat this week, he explained that the meeting discussed means of enhancing the bilateral relations in the fields of education and adapting academic disciplines that meet the needs of the Omani labour market. He stressed that the economic and trade relations between the two friendly countries are “in continuous development”. He pointed out in this regard to the economic agreements and partnerships signed between the two sides during the last period, such as the agreement between the Sultanate’s Government and the British Petroleum (BP) regarding Khazzan Project and the partnership agreement between Oman Drydock and Babcock International.

The UK Minister furthered that the volume of trade exchange between his country and the Sultanate, as well as the joint investments and the exchange of visits between the trade delegation witnessed a remarkable increase during the past period, which reflects the contributions of the Joint Working Group in promoting and enhancing the bilateral relations between the two friendly countries.

He added that the total trade in goods and services (exports and imports) between the Sultanate and the UK reached 3.1 billion Pounds in 2017, recording an increase of 92.2 percent compared to 2016. He pointed out that the UK is the largest investor in the Sultanate with 47.6 percent of all foreign direct investment in 2017 (worth approximately 8.97 billion Pounds.

Meanwhile, Alistair Burt, Minister of State for the Middle East at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office affirmed that his country supports the efforts of the UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths, pointing out that the only solution for this crisis is dialogue and negotiations.

He said, “This crisis must come to an end soon to stop the suffering of the Yemeni people who pay for this situation”. He pointed out that the British government has allocated a sum of money to support the UN organisations and other humanitarian organisations working in Yemen to alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people.

As for the Iranian nuclear deal, he explained that his country does not share the same assessment with the US regarding this deal, affirming that all parties should adhere with the deal.

As for Brexit, he said “It is not easy, but I am sure that my country will reach a deal with the EU”. He affirmed that the UK is keen to maintain its political and trade relations with the rest of European partners. He also affirmed that Brexit will not affect the UK relations with its non-European partners and allies.

Source: Oman News Agency