Jonathan Chancellor | 7 February 2013

Dubai's Sheikh Mohammed and Prime Minister Gillard discuss bolstering bilateral relations and post-GFC property developer imbroglio

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has spoken directly with Dubai’s ruler Sheik Mohammed.

Confirmation of the call came in a statement from the sheik’s website.

“UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum has held telephone talks with the Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard this afternoon,” it said.

“During their telephonic conversation, Sheikh Mohammed and the Australian Prime Minister discussed bolstering bilateral relations between the United Arab Emirates and Australia for the best interests of both peoples.”

The call came as the two Australian businessmen detained in the emirate prepare for a court hearing this week over corruption charges. Developers Matthew Joyce and Marcus Lee have been under effective house arrest for the past four years.

It has now been confirmed the leader discussed the two Australian businessmen.

Mr Joyce and Mr Lee were arrested on bribery charges in January 2009 based on allegations that have unravelled over the past few years.

AAP report the Foreign Minister Bob Carr says Ms Gillard pressed their case very strongly. But he indicated the Dubai leader's response was non-committal.

"He said that the courts are independent of the government but undertook to look at the matters the prime minister raised, including delays in the case," he told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.

Supporters of the property developers Matthew Joyce and Marcus Lee, have been recently pleading for the Australian Prime Minister to intervene, as they endure their fourth year under effective house arrest in Dubai.

The Australian Financial Review revealed last week that former prime minister Malcolm Fraser and federal independent MPs Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor had urged the prime minister to act.

Mr Fraser told The AFR that Australia should not allow its citizens to be held as “scapegoats” after the bubble burst in the UAE following the credit crisis in 2008.

“I’m firmly of the view that direct intervention with the Sheik is absolutely critical,” Mr Fraser said.


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