LONDON, September 4, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --
British Defence Secretary Philip Hammond met on Wednesday with Bahrain's ruler, King Hamad Al Khalifa, continuing a pattern of increased engagement between the UK and GCC countries since the Coalition Government came to power in 2010.
Central to the meeting was the recent interest shown by Bahrain in the Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jet. According to a Reuters news agency report on 7th August, "Britain hopes that its strong ties with Arabian Gulf States and regional allies will help secure a deal with Bahrain creating jobs at British Defence firm BAE's Typhoon production line at Warton, in Northwest England."
Bahrain News Agency reported on 7th August "that King Hamad, the current chair of the GCC, discussed the potential deal with British Prime Minister David Cameron during a meeting in London in August."
One Gulf official, who preferred not to be named, said to Zajil Press that "relations with the United Kingdom are strong and historic, but the United States has played a more dominant role in the security and economics of the Gulf region in recent years. The Arab Spring has proven the failure of the US policy in the Gulf and US policy has become increasingly unpopular with the governments of the region as well as the people. As a result the Gulf states want to see the UK rekindle its historic role and play a more pivotal role in the region."
A recent article in the UK's Daily Telegraph newspaper on 8th August reported that "the deal has been under negotiation for more than a year. If agreement is reached, the six states, Saudi Arabia, Oman, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait would sign multi-billion-pound contracts to buy Typhoon fighter jets and military equipment. In return, those countries want Britain to strengthen its military and political ties, with a permanent garrison of troops and an RAF combat squadron stationed in the Gulf."
Bahraini military sources stated to Zajil Press that "Britain was considered a "strategic ally" adding that "Bahrain would provide support and facilities for British forces withdrawing from Afghanistan."
The Gulf official also stated to Zajil Press that "GCC countries are working to unify their policies, particularly in security and defence, including military procurement and major infrastructure projects like rail links between the GCC countries. There is a great opportunity for the UK to benefit from these projects."
Bilateral trade between the UK and the GCC has increased in recent years, reaching $48 billion in 2012, with Bahrain's banking assets in the UK alone estimated to reach $11bn in 2013. The ongoing economic power of the Arabian Gulf continues to present an economic opportunity for the UK to support its own growth.
GCC countries are also encouraging Britain to do more to combat the increasingly pervasive influence of Iran. Hezbollah has been active in its support for Bashar Al Assad in the ongoing conflict in Syria. Meanwhile, GCC sources cite recent examples of Iranian terrorist activity in Thailand, India, Azerbaijan and the convictions of two men for plotting attacks in Kenya earlier this year as ongoing examples of Iran's malign intent. The Daily Telegraph also reported that in Bahrain "dissident groups linked to Iran have been blamed for two car bombs in the capital, Manama, in recent weeks."
According to the Gulf official the UK's positions and public statements in relation to terrorism and insurgencies in the region have been "mature and balanced." However, the official went on to note that Britain should "start protecting its economic interests in the Gulf by recognizing the harm of allowing its asylum system to be exploited by convicted criminals from Gulf countries."
The Daily Telegraph concluded its article, dated 8th August, stating: "With so much turmoil throughout the Arab world, it certainly makes sense for Britain to strengthen ties with historic allies, as well as protecting our national interests."
1. Bahrain News Agency (Article date August 7, 2013): http://www.bna.bh/portal/en/news/574420
2. UK's Telegraph (Article date August 8, 2013): http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/bahrain/10230954/Britains-old-friends-in-the-Gulf-are-luring-us-east-of-Suez-once-more.html
3. Reuters (Article date: August 7, 2013): http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/08/07/britain-typhoon-bahrain-idUSL6N0G82X820130807
4. Zajil Press: (Report date: September 4, 2013): http://www.zajilpress.com/britains-opportunities-growing-in-the-arabian-gulf/4748/
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SOURCE Zajil Press