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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - LONDON: Business figures and government officials on Monday hailed expanding economic ties between the Arab world and the UK at the third Arab-British Economic Summit in London, organized by the Arab-British Chamber of Commerce.
However, they warned that the looming threat of an escalation in the Gaza conflict threatens to undermine years of economic progress.
The summit, of which Arab News is a media partner, aims to bolster business ties between the UK and the Arab world under the theme “Sustaining an Emerging Vision.”
In his opening remarks, Sameer Abdulla Nass, president of the Union of Arab Chambers, warned that “prosperity can’t exist without stability.”
He called on businesspeople, both British and Arab, to “influence their governments” and push for peace in Gaza.
Hosted by TV anchor Rebecca McLaughlin, the opening session also featured Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean; Bandar Ali Reda, ABCC secretary-general and CEO; Mohamed Al-Khadar Al-Ahmed, CEO of Khalifa Economic Zones Abu Dhabi; Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit; Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, UK minister of state for the Middle East; and Oliver Christian, British trade commissioner for the Middle East and Pakistan at the Department of Business and Trade.
Symons opened her remarks by hailing the myriad opportunities for expanded Arab-UK trade in finance, technology, energy, medicine and agriculture.
She urged both sides to “confront the greatest challenge of our time” — climate change — at the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference in the UAE.
Investments between the Arab world and the UK are “guided by strategies implemented by visionary leaders who are absolutely determined to address the core needs of their citizens,” Symons said.
She added that friendship between the two sides is “absolutely pivotal,” hailing the “dynamism” shown by the Arab world, and lauding the “strategic” role played by Arab embassies and ambassadors in the UK.
Ali Reda said the size and scope of the summit’s third edition demonstrates the strength of relations and history between the Arab world and the UK.
Lord Ahmed, who recently returned from the Manama Dialogue in Bahrain — which gathers national leaders, ministers and policymakers from around the world to discuss the most
pressing regional security issues and share policy responses — said: “As we join here this morning, in the spirit of friendship, in the spirit of collaboration, it would be remiss of me, indeed for any of us, not to begin by reflecting on what’s happening right now across Israel, Gaza, and sadly in the West Bank. The intensity of what’s happening is reflected on the level of engagement.”
He added: “In bridging that particular gap, we need to move forward. The suffering (in Gaza) has gone on for far too long. No one, unless you’re directly impacted, can comprehend the pain and suffering.
“It’s important at this time that our conversations are frank and candid, and when we have differing perspectives, (remember) that ultimately, the goal that we all want to see is peace in the Middle East.
“If we don’t address that central, pivotal issue, we won’t see progress and we’ll be back here again.”
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