Britain's Cameron visits Gulf to sell jets, discuss security

AFP , Monday 5 Nov 2012

UK Premier David Cameron arrives in the UAE in a three-day visit to the oil-rich Arab Gulf states as he is expected to push Britain's defence industry and promote the Typhoon fast jet to Gulf leaders

Cameron in the UAE
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (C) walks with Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al-Maktoum (2nd L), Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates Airlines and Group, and President of Dubai's Civil Aviation Authority, during their arrival to the Dubai World Trade Center November 5, 2012. (Photo: Reuters)

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron arrived Monday in the Gulf on a three-day visit aimed at selling Typhoon Eurofighter jets and discussing regional security threats, the British embassy in the UAE said.

The embassy said on its Twitter account that Cameron had arrived in the United Arab Emirates "for a series of meetings." It later tweeted that he had breakfasted with British troops based in the Gulf state.

According to a statement by Cameron's office, the prime minister was after his arrival to accompany senior Emirati officials on an inspection of RAF Typhoons stationed at a UAE airbase as part of a training exercise.

The visit to the UAE, to be followed by a stopover in Saudi Arabia, "signals the PM's commitment to cementing long-term partnerships with two of Britain's most important strategic allies in the Gulf," the statement said.

Cameron is expected to use the trip to push Britain's defence industry and "specifically promote the Typhoon fast jet to Gulf leaders", it added.

The UAE had shown an interest in ordering up to 60 Typhoon Eurofighters to replace their ageing French Mirages, it said.

Later on Monday Cameron and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan, are to attend a business event where British firms including defence giant BAE Systems and aerospace firm Rolls Royce will be on display.

Cameron will also hold talks with the crown prince and the prime minister of the UAE on collaborating over next-generation aerospace equipment, the statement added.

The British leader will head to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday before travelling onwards in the Middle East. His itinerary for the rest of the trip remains undisclosed for security reasons.

Cameron visited the UAE in 2010 and Saudi Arabia in January 2012.

Britain is trying to boost its arms sales to oil-rich Gulf states, which are key allies in a region facing instability from the violence in Syria and the crisis over Iran's nuclear programme.

Saudi Arabia is interested in a second "substantial" order on top of the 72 Typhoons they already have, while Oman is in negotiations for 12 of the jets, the statement said.

The Eurofighter Typhoon is a project which involves British defence giant BAE Systems and companies from Germany, Italy and Spain.

The visit comes a month after Britain's defence industry -- which is worth £5.4 billion in annual exports and sustains 54,000 jobs -- suffered a blow with the collapse of a mega merger between BAE and European aerospace consortium EADS.

It also comes against a backdrop of growing unease in the Gulf about the situation in Syria and its ally Iran.

Downing Street said Britain, the UAE and Saudi Arabia had a "shared commitment to security and stability and defeating the threats we face in the wider Middle East region".

The Syrian regime accuses Saudi Arabia, along with Turkey and Qatar, of arming the rebels fighting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Meanwhile mainly Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia is increasingly concerned about Shiite Iran's controversial nuclear programme.

Iran denies Israeli and Western suspicions that its nuclear programme is a cover for efforts to build an atomic bomb, but has been hit by several rounds of UN and Western sanctions over its activities.

The British PM returns to London late Wednesday for talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

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