Britain has signed a landmark deal with Bahrain that will bolster the UK’s military presence in the Persian Gulf and give it a permanent naval base in the area more than forty years after it withdrew from the region.
In an agreement announced on Saturday, the UK will build a new base in the tiny gulf Kingdom which will allow the Royal Navy a place to plan, store equipment for naval operations and accommodate Royal Navy personnel.
This new base... will enable Britain to send more and larger ships to reinforce stability in the Gulf
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said the deal ensures a permanent footing for the Royal Navy and improved onshore facilities at Bahrain’s Mina Salman port.
“In a globalized world, our domestic security and prosperity depends on developments beyond our shores,” Hammond said. “Your security concerns are our security concerns.”
Four British mine-hunter warships are currently based at the Mina Salman Port, where the UK currently uses US facilities.
“This new base is a permanent expansion of the Royal Navy’s footprint and will enable Britain to send more and larger ships to reinforce stability in the Gulf,” defence secretary Michael Fallon said.
It will be the first permanent base in the Middle East for the UK since it formally withdrew from the region in 1971.
Bahrain already hosts the US Navy’s 5th Fleet, which is responsible for operations around the Arabian Peninsula as well as parts of the Indian Ocean.
Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Khalid al-Khalifa said the deal “reaffirms our joint determination to maintain regional security and stability in the face of challenging circumstances”.
The move comes as the UK, the US and their allies seek to push back the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) that have taken over large parts of Iraq and Syria and as world powers work to forge a lasting nuclear deal with Iran, which sits just across the Gulf from Bahrain.