Arabian Gulf a major priority in Britain’s new government foreign policy

June 10, 2010

John Hawkins - Gulf Times

The Arabian Gulf will be a major priority in Britain’s new government foreign policy, its ambassador in Doha has said.

“One of the things Foreign Secretary William Hague has clearly picked up is that he wants to ensure that British engagement remains strong in Europe and North America, but that it also stretches beyond them,” Ambassador John Hawkins said. “He has singled out a number of areas where he wants to build the relationship further, and he has persistently singled out the Gulf as one of those,” the envoy said.

A new British government took charge last month when Conservatives returned to power after 13 years in opposition by forming an alliance with the Liberal Democrats to produce the first coalition government since World War II.

“I think there is a very clear message I have been given by the new government that the Gulf and Qatar are going to be priorities for them, and I think we are beginning to see the results of that already,” he said, referring to recent meetings between high-level UK and Qatari government officials.

Hawkins said that two-way investment between Qatar and Britain was mutually beneficial. Trade and investment have continued to grow between the two countries, with UK exports to Qatar rising by 12.5 per cent in 2009 to £778mn, while figures for 2010 show exports up by 41.7 per cent compared with the same period last year.

“The purchase of Harrods was very high profile and something we very much welcome, and indeed generally we welcome Qatar as an investor in the UK. Qatar invests for the long-term and that is something we like to see,” Hawkins said.

The envoy referred to Shell and Vodafone as examples of UK-based companies that have set up major operations in Qatar.

Hawkins said that a number of UK education institutions were engaged in discussions to establish their presence in Qatar.

“I am hopeful that over the next few months we will see at least one new major UK school and one major university making announcements,” he said.

The recently established British schools in Qatar and the efforts of the British Council are indications of a healthy educational presence in Qatar, the diplomat said.

However, Hawkins said that culture was an area that required more development, although the embassy had contributed towards to the ‘Doha Capital of Culture’ programme this year.

“Culture and education are areas in which I think we can and should do more. They will certainly be priorities for me in the next year,” he said. “I would like to see more educational and cultural links, and with a bit of luck there might be one or two more high profile projects here which we can point to as further symbols of the strong UK-Qatar relationship.”




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About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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