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Author: 
GHAZANFAR ALI KHAN | ARAB NEWS
Publication Date: 
Wed, 2011-12-14 02:47

The talks with the Saudi officials including Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, state minister and chief of the National Guard, also focused on training and cooperation with the UK in the defense sector.
Speaking about his meetings with Saudi leaders, Hammond said: "My talks allowed for a full exchange of views on the current complex regional situation and on the scope for enhanced cooperation between our two countries. I look forward to continuing close contacts with Saudi Arabia in the years ahead as we work together on the range of problems and opportunities we discussed with Saudi officials."
Hammond wrapped up his visit to Riyadh Monday night.
The exchange of views with senior Saudi officials were important keeping in view the current issues related to stability and security in the Gulf and the wider Middle East, the situation in Afghanistan and the Iranian intransigence.
Hammond's meetings with Riyadh officials also focused on strengthening the UK-Saudi relationship and improving Gulf security built on close historical, governmental and personal ties.
Referring to Saudi-British relations, Hammond said: "The relationship between the two kingdoms is close and deeply rooted in history…we share a history of friendship, understanding and cooperation based on personal links, trade and investment, education and culture. We also share a strong interest in sustainable regional and international security and stability, so it is natural that our dialogue and cooperation on defense and security matters is at the heart of the bilateral relationship."
Hammond, who was delighted to make his first formal visit to the Kingdom as the new British secretary of state for defense, made his points clear on a range of regional issues including Libya and Afghanistan.
According to a BBC report, British plans to hand over responsibility for security to the Afghan government by the end of 2014 were on track. Hammond, according to the report, praised the operation in Libya despite the fact that it cost £212 million.
On the other hand, Britain has had a substantial defense presence in the Middle East including the Gulf countries. In September this year, Britain’s HMS Somerset conducted an exercise with the Saudi Navy. The mission was to reinforce multinational relations by conducting maritime security exercises with the Saudi Navy in the Red Sea. A report posted on the British Embassy's website says the training was one of the major areas of cooperation with the Kingdom in this sector.
"Training encompasses courses and exchanges in the UK, joint exercises in Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom with the Saudi armed forces, training at sea with the Royal Saudi Navy as well as refueling exercises between our air forces," said the report. The visit of Hammond to the Kingdom is followed by a trip involving Alistair Burt, undersecretary of state for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, to Bahrain on Tuesday, which indicates growing British engagement in the region.

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