Manama – British Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed that intelligence received in the past from Saudi Arabia has saved potentially hundreds of lives in the UK.
Speaking at the British-Gulf summit, May said that close co-operation between the countries on counter-terrorism had succeeded in foiling terrorist plots and a range of threats against citizens in all countries.
She added: “For example, intelligence we have received in the past from Saudi Arabia has saved potentially hundreds of lives in the UK.”
The PM stressed that her country is aware of the threat that Iran poses to the Gulf and the wider Middle East, saying: “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 neutralized the possibility of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons for over a decade.”
“It has already seen Iran remove 13,000 centrifuges together with associated infrastructure and eliminate its stock of 20% 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,” May reiterated.
Speaking about the defense and security cooperation between UK and the GCC, May announced that her country will invest in hard power, with over £3 billion of defense spending in the region over the next decade, and thus spending more on defense in the Gulf than in any other region of the world.
She admitted to military presence in the region saying that through the construction of HMS Jufair, UK will create a permanent presence in the region, which will be the first of such facility east of Suez since 1971.
The British PM also announced that Saif Sareea 3 will take place in Oman in 2018 which will be the largest UK-Omani exercise for 15 years.
“We will establish a new British Defense 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,” she added.
During her speech, the prime minister also announced that the countries 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.
The Primer confirmed that Gulf security is of her country’s security.
She went on to say: “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.”
Speaking on the economic aspects, May said she will never forget that the bedrock of the prosperity and stability has been the relationship between the Gulf and the West which has been achieved over the past 50 years, starting from the transformation of Dubai to the position of the Gulf as the UK’s third largest export market.
“For just as Gulf security is our security, so your prosperity is also our prosperity,” May declared.
She also announced that the Gulf is a special market for the United Kingdom with trade between the UK and GCC exceeding the worth of £30 billion last year.
The PM announced: “I will continue the work that the UK has been leading over the past 3 years to make London one of the great capitals of Islamic finance anywhere in the world. And as Britain leaves the European Union so we intend to take a leap forward, to look outwards and seek to become the most committed and most passionate advocate of free trade in the world.”
She also declared that a new agreement with Saudi Arabia has been reached to allow British businesses to obtain 5-year multiple entry visas for the first time, creating new opportunities for more bilateral business.
“We have agreed that in March next year, the UK will host an event on Gulf national transformation and economic diversification plans at the Mansion House – for centuries, a home of finance and trade at the heart of the City of London,” she stated.
“But I have been encouraged by recent economic and social reforms you have taken forward and by the bold vision set out by all of the Gulf States for more fundamental and lasting change, most recently with Saudi Arabia’s vision for 2030,” May continued.
The British Prime minister concluded that as the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, she is determined to seize the opportunity to get out into the world and shape an even bigger global role for her country in order to build new alliances and go further in working with allies here in the Gulf, who have stood alongside the United Kingdom for centuries.