GCC security is UK security: British PM

Britain Prime Minister Theresa May

AL SAKHIR PALACE: British Prime Minister Theresa May has renewed his Government’s pledge to seek a new and bold partnership with the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) by bolstering ties in security, trade and commercial areas.

“Gulf security is our security. Extremists plotting terror attacks here in this region are not only targeting the Gulf but, as we have seen, targeting the streets of Europe too. Whether we are confronting the terrorism of Al Qaeda or the murderous barbarity of Daesh, no country is a more committed partner for you in this fight than the United Kingdom,” British Prime Minister told the GCC heads of States during the 37th GCC Summit hosted by the Kingdom of Bahrain.

“Today UK servicemen and women are putting their lives on the line at the heart of the international mission against Daesh in Iraq and Syria. We are making progress. And as we are seeing with the current operations in Mosul, the days of Daesh as an occupying force are numbered.

“Through our close co-operation on counter-terrorism we are succeeding in foiling terrorist plots and a range of threats against citizens in all our countries. For example, intelligence we have received in the past from Saudi Arabia has saved potentially hundreds of lives in the UK.

“And by focusing not just on violent extremism, but on the whole spectrum of extremism, violent and non-violent, at home and abroad, we are not just going after the terrorists but working to address the causes of this terrorist threat by targeting the ideology of extremism and all those who seek to spread it.

“As we address new threats to our security, so we must also continue to confront state actors whose influence fuels instability in the region. So, I want to assure you that I am clear-eyed about the threat that Iran poses to the Gulf and the wider Middle East.

“The UK is fully committed to our strategic partnership with the Gulf and working with you to counter that threat. We secured a deal which has neutralised the possibility of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons for over a decade. It has already seen Iran remove 13000 centrifuges together with associated infrastructure and eliminate its stock of 20 per cent enriched uranium. That was vitally important for regional security. But we must also work together to push back against Iran’s aggressive regional actions, whether in Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen, Syria or in the Gulf itself.”

“We must also continue to work together to achieve a just and comprehensive settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian issue, building on efforts such as the Arab Peace Initiative and harnessing the influence of all of us around this table to bring together those with a stake in a lasting peace, built around a two-state solution. This remains fundamental to the long-term security and prosperity of the whole Middle East.

“In recent years, we have retained the ability to defend our mutual interests when threatened by deploying UK assets to the region, as we did when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, and as we are continuing to do with HMS Ocean – which I visited yesterday – as it begins its deployment here in Bahrain.

But as part of the renewed relationship that I want to forge with you, the United Kingdom will make a more permanent and more enduring commitment to the long-term security of the Gulf.

“We will invest in hard power, with over pound sterling 3 billion of defence spending in the region over the next decade, spending more on defence in the Gulf than in any other region of the world.

Through the construction of HMS Jufair, and thanks to the generosity of the Kingdom of Bahrain, we will create a permanent presence in the region, the first such facility East of Suez since 1971, with more British warships, aircraft and personnel deployed on operations in the Gulf than in any other part of the world.

At the same time, a regional land training hub in Oman is establishing a permanent British army presence in the region. And I am delighted to announce that Saif Sareea 3 will take place in Oman in 2018 – the largest UK-Omani exercise for 15 years.

We will also go further in deepening our defence co-operation through a new Strategic Partnership between the UK and the GCC, supporting the development of your defence capacity and capability, including for humanitarian operations and crisis response planning.

“As part of this we will establish a new British Defence Staff in Dubai to co-ordinate our regional activities and, here in Bahrain, we will embed a dedicated military officer with the Ministry of Interior bomb disposal unit to provide bomb scene management support and training.

“We will establish a new Joint Working Group on Counter-Terrorism and Border Security and a new National Security Dialogue at GCC level to protect critical national infrastructure, facilitate faster intelligence sharing on suspected foreign terrorist fighters and implement traveller screening systems to detect terrorists attempting to pass through any GCC airport.

“And because we know that our enemies are increasingly using the internet against us, we will use our expertise in cyber security technologies to build our resilience, and that of our international partners.

“So, we are appointing world-leading cyber experts with extensive backgrounds in delivering cyber security in the UK to provide focused advice to Gulf States on developing your own capacity – as well as a new Cyber Industry Representative based in the region who will build links between cyber sectors in the UK and the Gulf.

“In all of these ways, I am determined that the UK will be at the forefront of a wider Western effort to step up our defence and security partnership. Not just to provide greater stability and security to the region but also to protect the rules-based order that has been so fundamental to our shared prosperity.

“When I think of the growth of this region over the past fifty years, from the transformation of Dubai to the position of the Gulf as the UK’s third largest export market, I never forget that the bedrock of this prosperity and stability has been the relationship between the Gulf and the West

“Now, in this period of uncertainty, is the time to recommit to this relationship.

“That is why I am here – to signal my commitment to this relationship and to build on the foundations of our continued partnership in security and prosperity for decades to come.”

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