Jeddah: The first permanent British naval base in Bahrain since 1971 was inaugurated on Thursday, in the presence of Bahraini Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa and Britain’s Prince Andrew, the Duke of York.
“The inauguration of the UK Naval Support Facility in Salman Port in Manama is an important milestone in Bahrain’s efforts to support the international coalition against terrorism, contribute to promoting global stability, and protect international trade and corridors,” said Crown Prince Salman.
“This facility is a strategic feature in the historic friendship between the United Kingdom and the Kingdom of Bahrain, a friendship that spans over two centuries of high-level cooperation and coordination at various levels.”
Other prominent guests at the inauguration ceremony included Bahrain Defense Force Commander-in-Chief Sheikh Khalifa bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, and senior officers.
The crown prince pointed out that as part of a comprehensive development process, Bahrain has continued to advance its defense and security capabilities and has sought to strengthen its partnerships with friendly countries to achieve common interests.
He also said that Bahrain is keen to strengthen its historical relations with the UK, and highlighted the important role the new naval base will play in enriching the bilateral cooperation between the two countries, especially in the military field, as well as maintaining security and stability in the region in the interests of peace.
Prince Andrew said that the facility will serve the common interests of the two nations, pointing out that the UK is keen to further improve the cooperation between them.
He expressed confidence in the strong foundations of the partnership between the UK and Bahrain, and the hope that it will continue to grow, before wishing success to the naval forces of both countries.
Foreign Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed described the inauguration of the base as an important moment in which the two countries celebrate a new chapter in their military relations — an essential component of their cooperation.
“The defense and security cooperation between the UK and Bahrain has played a pivotal role in maintaining security and stability in the Gulf over the past 90 years,” he said. “The Bahraini and British naval forces have worked side by side as members of the Combined Maritime Forces to maintain stability in 3.2 million square miles of international waters.
“This facility, which is Britain’s first permanent naval base in the region since 1971, will be one of the most important UK naval-support facilities outside British waters and will provide vital support for shared strategic tasks.
“Most importantly, this facility is a true representation of the two kingdoms’ commitment to expanding cooperation and coordination to face different challenges.”
Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri, a Saudi political analyst and international relations scholar in Riyadh, described the British move as “a step in a right direction in an increasingly interdependent world.”
“After Brexit, Britain is trying to reinforce its robust foreign policy image. The opening of the maritime facility will bolster regional security and will send a strong message to those who want to destabilize this region,” he told Arab News on Thursday.
Al-Shehri said the British navy is considered among the best in the world and its presence in the region will help ensure clear passage for maritime traffic. "Against the backdrop of Bahrain’s recent discovery of a huge old field, the development becomes even more significant," he said.
“Houthis and other terrorist groups which are supported by Iran will be under close watch in the international waters thanks to the opening of the new facility,” he added.
Al-Manama: The United Kingdom opened a permanent military base in Bahrain on Thursday, Bahrain’s state news agency BNA reported.
The ceremony formally opening the UK Naval Support Facility was attended by Bahraini Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa and Britain’s Prince Andrew.
Britain announced in 2014 it had sealed a deal to expand and reinforce its naval presence in Bahrain, allowing it to operate more and bigger ships in the Gulf.
The US Navy’s Fifth Fleet is also based in Bahrain.
The Gulf is a major trade route for oil tankers, its waters shared by many countries.
Last year, US Navy commanders accused Iran of jeopardizing international navigation by harassing warships passing through the Strait of Hormuz and said future incidents could result in miscalculation and lead to an armed clash. Iran denied the accusations.