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UK-Bahrain to boost military cooperation

The deal would provide the British navy with a forward operating base and a place to store equipment and plan operations in the region
UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said the deal highlighted growing cooperation with Gulf states, and would help 'tackle shared strategic and regional threats' (AFP)

Britain will open a new military base in Bahrain as part of international efforts to tackle security threats in the region, the UK Foreign Office has announced in a statement.

UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond signed a defence agreement on Friday with Bahrain's foreign minister to boost onshore facilities at the Mina Salman Port, the current location of four UK mine-hunter warships.

The deal would provide the British navy with a forward operating base and "a place to plan, store equipment for naval operations and accomodate Royal Navy personnel", the office said.

"The expansion of Britain’s footprint builds upon our 30-year track record of Gulf patrols and is just one example of our growing partnership with Gulf partners to tackle shared strategic and regional threats," Hammond said.

UK Defence Minister Michael Fallon added: "We will now be based again in the Gulf for the long term."

The announcement came on the sidelines of a regional security conference hosted by the Gulf state, the IISS Manama Dialogue.

Bahrain is one of a handful of Arab states participating in a United States-led mission to combat the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, and a long-time ally of both the UK and US governments.

The deal also came only a day after Bahraini human rights activist Zainab al-Khawaja was sentenced to three years in prison for insulting the king by tearing up a photograph of him.

Khawaja's sentence was condemned by several human rights groups, including Amnesty International, which called for her conviction to be overturned.

Bahrain's Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid said the agreement marked "a further step in the long cooperation between Bahrain and the [UK]".

"Bahrain looks forward to the early implementation of today's arrangement, and to continuing to work with the UK and other partners to address threats to regional security," Khalid said.

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