Joint statement - 5 February 2010
Joint Statement by
Stephen Smith MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia
His Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan,
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates
The Hon Stephen Smith and His Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan held a bilateral meeting in Canberra on 3 February 2010, during Sheikh Abdullah’s six-day visit to Australia. Mr Smith also accompanied Sheikh Abdullah during meetings in Sydney on 5 February.
During his visit to Canberra Sheikh Abdullah also met with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd; Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard; and Acting Chief of the Defence Force Lieutenant-General David Hurley. Sheikh Abdullah is also meeting with the Governor-General, Her Excellency Quentin Bryce, in Sydney.
In their meeting Mr Smith and Sheikh Abdullah agreed that the bilateral relationship is dynamic and of notable strategic importance to both countries. It is based on extensive trade and investment relations, expanding high-level contacts and warm people-to-people links. The UAE and Australia also share strategic interests in the security and development of the Gulf region. The Ministers agreed that despite the many existing interests and activities between the UAE and Australia, there are still significant opportunities to broaden and deepen the relationship.
Mr Smith thanked Sheikh Abdullah for the critical support and assistance that the UAE provides in hosting Australian Defence Force elements. These elements, including the Australian National Headquarters for the Middle East, contribute materially towards international campaigns against terrorism, in countering piracy in the Gulf of Aden, and providing maritime security in the region. They noted positively the recent signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on Counter-Terrorism Cooperation between Australia and the UAE.
Both Ministers commented warmly on the growing people-to-people links between the two countries, which they agreed help enhance understanding and goodwill between Australians and Emiratis. Mr Smith was pleased that approximately 15,000 Australians, many talented professionals, are contributing to the UAE’s ambitious development agenda through their expertise in the health, education, financial, legal, design and construction sectors. Over 1,700 UAE students study in Australia and many thousands of Emirati and Australian tourists visit each other’s countries every year. Friendly competition on the sporting field and a shared love of motorsports, including Abu Dhabi’s hosting of Australian V8 Supercars this month (February 2010) are also bringing both countries closer together.
The Ministers agreed that both countries would continue to work together to facilitate these many shared interests. UAE nationals now have access to online tourist visa applications for Australia. Sheikh Abdullah welcomed advice from Mr Smith that UAE nationals transiting Australia are to be granted access to transit-without-visa arrangements.
Mr Smith and Sheikh Abdullah said they were very pleased with the cooperation on consular issues between their two departments, including the provision of consular training in Australia. In Canberra, Mr Smith and Sheikh Abdullah signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the establishment of a Joint Committee on Consular Affairs, which they said would lead to even closer cooperation between Australia and the UAE in providing consular support to their respective citizens.
Mr Smith and Sheikh Abdullah noted the diverse and increasingly mature business links between Australia and the UAE, and the significant two-way trade in goods, services and investment. The UAE is Australia’s largest partner for two-way merchandise trade in the Middle East. Australia-UAE business links are strongly assisted by extensive direct air links between the UAE and Australia, currently 84 flights per week. Although the global financial crisis may have had an impact on overall trade figures, the Ministers were confident that business links were resilient and that trade would continue to grow from strength to strength.
In this context, Mr Smith said he was very pleased to also welcome to Australia a high-level business delegation accompanying Sheikh Abdullah, which was having a separate program of meetings with Austrade and Australian business counterparts in Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney. Both ministers believed that this would lead to new business opportunities between Australia and the UAE.
To further strengthen trade and investment ties between Australia and the UAE, the Ministers expressed support for the early conclusion of a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement between Australia and the Gulf Cooperation Council, of which the UAE is a member.
Mr Smith and Sheikh Abdullah welcomed the second Australia-UAE Dialogue being hosted by the Lowy Institute, and applauded efforts by business leaders and academics to engage in second-track dialogue. The Ministers agreed it was appropriate that the Dialogue take place at the Wolgan Valley Resort in the Blue Mountains - one of the UAE’s major investments in Australia and the first hospitality development outside the UAE by Emirates Hotels and Resorts.
On regional issues, the Ministers recognised the need for the international community to work together to address questions surrounding Iran’s nuclear intentions. They noted the UAE’s approach to developing civilian nuclear energy programs as the responsible model for nuclear development. Mr Smith and Sheikh Abdullah expressed concern about the emerging threat from extremist groups based in Yemen, and noted that Australia and the UAE had both given recent assistance to support development in Yemen. Mr Smith highlighted the importance of the UAE’s contribution to security in Afghanistan and welcomed Sheikh Abdullah’s recent hosting of the Special Representatives for Afghanistan-Pakistan in Abu Dhabi. Mr Smith and Sheikh Abdullah said Australia and the UAE would continue to cooperate and exchange views on addressing terrorist threats, and on regional security issues.
Mr Smith welcomed the decision of the international community, which Australia had strongly supported, for the headquarters of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) to be located in Abu Dhabi. He said this underlined the UAE’s role in renewable energy and its increasing influence on multilateral issues. He highlighted the energy-efficient Masdar City project, where the IRENA Secretariat would eventually be located, as another example of the UAE’s modern vision for the future. Mr Smith and Sheikh Abdullah agreed on the importance of Australia and the UAE cooperating closely on renewable energy and climate change issues.
Mr Smith and Sheikh Abdullah looked forward to continuing close and friendly cooperation between Australia and the UAE on all of these bilateral, regional and multilateral issues over coming months and years.