LONDON: A senior government minister has signed a historic agreement at the United Nations that brings the UK and Islamic world closer than ever before.
Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, the UK Senior Foreign Minister, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the UK and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), cementing further the relationship between the two.
The senior politician of Pakistani origin has long championed Britain’s interaction with Muslim countries by personally establishing a strategic relationship with the OIC.
In fact, she became the first British minister to speak at its conference in June 2011 in Astana, Kazakstan. Previously she had hosted the secretary-general of the OIC in London and visited its secretariat in Jeddah, while she was in Saudi Arabia for performing Hajj. This led to the appointment of Britain’s first special representative to organisation and its 57 members. Baroness Warsi has visited Pakistan five times during the past two and a half years in government, a country, which was so central to the formation of the Islamic Conference.
Baroness Warsi’s new remit at the Foreign Office include being the lead minister responsible for Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Central Asia, the UN, the International Criminal Court and the OIC, which is the largest multi-lateral organisation in the world after the UN.
In the landmark agreement, signed at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, the UK and OIC have pledged to work together on issues of peace, stability and religious freedom. There is also a particular emphasis on promoting the key role Muslims have played in shaping modern Britain and encouraging Muslim communities to play a key role at all levels in public life.
Baroness Warsi, who in 2010 became the first Muslim to serve in a British cabinet, said, “This agreement is another significant step in strengthening the vital relationship between the UK and the OIC.
When I addressed the OIC Conference in Kazakhstan in June 2011, I said we face the global challenges together. This agreement formalises that establishing our many, many areas of co-operation, from security to conflict prevention; from religious freedom to human rights. One of the central aims of my new role will be to strengthen this relationship further and I am looking forward to ensuring we continue to work closely to achieve our mutual goals.”
She also praised the Framework Co-operation Agreement, signed with the OIC’s secretary-general, for its focus on promoting inter-religious understanding and interfaith dialogue, especially as these are two vital areas in the senior minister’s new governmental role.
Baroness Warsi was previously chairperson of the Conservative party and Minister without Portfolio before being promoted in David Cameron’s cabinet reshuffle on September 4, 2012, becoming Senior Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Minister for Faith and Communities.