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Chairman’s Annual Report 2011–12

Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles

As Sir Alan Munro suggested in last year’s report, I have been lucky enough to have been chosen to succeed Alan as your Chairman. Alan has a proud record of achievement for Saudi-British relations, and his will be a hard act to follow.

Alan was still in the Chair at the Annual General Meeting on 29 June, at the Arab–British Chamber of Commerce. The Chairman of the All Party Group on Saudi Arabia, Daniel Kawczynski MP then spoke about his engagement with the Middle East and North Africa (including Mauretania) in general, and with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in particular. It was particularly good to hear Daniel’s account of his visit to Riyadh leading a group of British Members of both Houses of Parliament. His enthusiasm for Saudi Arabia, and his willingness to engage with the Kingdom in confronting common challenges, won many plaudits. At the end of that meeting, I was formally elected to succeed Alan Munro.

On 12th October, the Society was privileged to hear from Her Majesty’s Ambassador at Riyadh, Sir Tom Phillips, in a well attended meeting. Sir Tom’s talk showed his evident sympathy for the Kingdom and Arabia more generally. He has now left Riyadh, and retired from the Diplomatic Service, to be replaced in post by Sir John Jenkins.

Sir John is a distinguished Arabist (and lapsed classicist) who has already agreed in principle to address the Society. He has already served as HM Representative in Jerusalem, Damascus, Baghdad and Benghazi. He started his overseas career in Kuwait. He was also FCO Middle East Director.

On 2nd February, the Society held its annual Rawabi Awards Ceremony and Dinner at the Institute of Directors. This year’s recipients were Sir Alan Munro and the film-maker Michael McKinnon. The generous sponsor of the awards is Abdulaziz al–Turki: we are immensely grateful to him for his generous support – and presence.

On 21st March, the Society organised a private viewing of the magnificent Hajj Exhibition at the British Museum, thanks to the generous sponsorship of the Saudi–British Bank. A large number of members attended, and greatly enjoyed themselves.

We have also been pleased this year to relaunch the Society’s website – www.saudibritishsociety.org.uk – thanks to our wonderful webmistress, Jane Larkin.

During the year Ali Ashban of Aramco in London (SPOL) and Rasheed Alajmi of Saudi Airlines joined the Committee. We were also pleased to have some enthusiastic engagement from younger Britons, as well as younger Saudis resident in London, interested in helping the Society further its aims.

But most thanks must go to our outstanding Honorary Secretary, Ionis Thompson, who IS the Saudi–British Society. Without Ionis there would be no Society. We are all deeply grateful to her.

Sherard Cowper-Coles
24 May 2012


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