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KINGDOM OPEN TO DEFENCE TIE-UPS

Bahrain aims for bigger role in regional security

, January 5, 2014

By Greg Fountain

Bahrain is ready to play a more proactive role in political and security developments across the Middle East, said a top government official, adding that the civil war in Syria topped the agenda.

The spread of sectarianism one of the greatest threats to arise from the Syrian conflict, Minister of State for Defence Affairs Dr Shaikh Mohammed bin Abdulla Al Khalifa told the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication in an exclusive interview.

"I think with the things that are happening in this area, we shouldn't be passive because it could affect us," he said.

"Bahrain is comparatively quite far away from Syria, but what happens in the area will affect everybody, whether directly or indirectly.

"We need more progressive ideas to have more harmony between people in the area."

Dr Shaikh Mohammed said Bahrain also had to be open-minded about forming defence alliances with other countries.

He said the country's "strong" relationships with states in both the West and East make it easier to enhance bilateral ties.

"We are right in the middle of the world here. We have the West on one side and the East on the other," he said. "We should look to both sides, it is only natural."
"Bahrain has strong equal ties and friendships with both East and West.

"Therefore, the Bahrain Defence Force (BDF) works through those strong relationships in order to enhance co-operation and strengthen them."

In March, British Ambassador Iain Lindsay told the GDN that the tempo of the bilateral relationship between the UK and Bahrain has moved up a couple of gears.

Dr Shaikh Mohammed agreed the two nations would continue to work closely together in the future.

"The historic ties are there, we have had a relationship with Britain for centuries and that is something that we are building upon," he added.

"This kind of relationship is very important. The BDF attaches importance to the preparation of different units and weapons in accordance with the latest military systems and high-tech fighting capabilities.

"In addition, the BDF attaches importance to advanced military training - consequently, we do our best all the time to learn from other countries."

Bahrain's relationship with the US is also still strong and enduring, said Dr Shaikh Mohammed.

"They are actually expanding the base. They have been here for decades and I think the relationship with the Fifth Fleet especially is very strong - and they are here to stay," he added.

This echoed US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel's remarks at the Manama Dialogue last month, when the GDN reported his commitment to support Bahrain "as an anchor for regional stability".

As for the recent thaw in relations between Iran and the US, which has included a landmark deal on the Persian state's nuclear programme, Dr Shaikh Mohammed said Bahrain would keep a close eye on the developing issue.

"I think we should always watch and see," he said. "What's happening is happening and we hope that if the negotiations go ahead some kind of agreement will be reached because that will remove the question of nuclear, or some other kind of war." – TradeArabia News Service




Tags: Bahrain | Regional security |

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