Published: Jun 20, 2011 01:17 Updated: Jun 20, 2011 01:17
RIYADH: The British government has appointed Mohammed Shokat as the UK special envoy to the 57-member Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) in a major bid to boost ties between the two.
The OIC and the UK have also announced plans to develop a joint framework of dialogue and cooperation in selected areas and evinced keen interest to hold regular consultations on issues of common concerns, said a British Embassy spokesman in Riyadh Sunday.
The move to promote relations with the OIC is significant for both sides as Islam is the second largest religion in Britain, with an estimated Muslim population of 2.5 million.
The UK is also a permanent member of the UN Security Council besides being a developed country and the world’s sixth largest economy. On the other hand, the OIC, the second largest inter-governmental organization after the UN, is the collective voice of the Muslim world.
A joint draft statement released by the British Embassy Sunday said Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, OIC secretary-general, held talks with British Prime Minister David Cameron and Foreign Minister William Hague that focused on promoting OIC-UK cooperation.
The OIC chief paid a five-day official visit to London last week on the invitation of Baroness Warsi, UK Cabinet minister without portfolio.
During the visit, Ihsanoglu was also received by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons Nigel Evans, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Alistair Burt, Minister of State for International Development Alan Duncan, UK Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Mark Sedwill, as well as Shokat, said the statement.
Referring to Ihsanoglu’s talks with Cameron and Hague, the statement said a number of issues of mutual interest were discussed including the further development of OIC-UK relations and cooperation, including thorough regular consultation at various levels.
They also exchanged views on the Middle East peace process, developments in some countries in Northern Africa and the Middle East, such as Libya, Syria and Yemen and the situation in Afghanistan, the statement added.
The OIC chief welcomed Shokat’s appointment and expressed his support for him in consolidating the bilateral relationship.
Ihsanoglu met selected British Muslim personalities and exchanged views about their role and activities in society. He commended the valuable and successful work conducted by the British Muslim community and expressed his strong belief that members would set a good example for Muslims in the rest of Europe.
In addition, the OIC secretary-general got together with ambassadors of OIC member states based in London and met representatives of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House, during his trip.
Both sides agreed to develop a joint framework of dialogue and cooperation between the OIC and the UK on selected areas including international political issues, development aid, humanitarian assistance, science and technology, interfaith dialogue and combating intolerance.