Britain to deepen security cooperation with GCC partners

Britain plans to deepen security cooperation with Gulf Arab countries and work with them to counter Iranian actions in the region, Prime Minister Theresa May said on Wednesday.

Addressing a meeting on the sidelines of the Gulf Cooperation Council Summit in Bahrain, May said Britain would invest more than 3 billion pounds in defence spending in the region over the next decade.

“Gulf security is our security,” May said.

Britain is trying to build on traditionally strong ties with conservative, oil-wealthy Gulf Arab monarchies before its planned departure from the European Union.

In a joint communique, the two sides said they intended to build on trade between Britain and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, which stood at 30 billion pounds in 2015.

“We will make it a priority¬†when the UK leaves the European Union, to build the closest possible commercial and economic relationship,” the statement said.

This included working to remove barriers to trade and investment.

The joint communique also said the GCC states and Britain would work together to counter what they called “Iran’s destabilising activities”.

Gulf Arab states say Iran is trying to expand its influence in Arab countries, including Syria and Yemen.

Since March 2015, Saudi Arabia and other Arab allies have been fighting a war against Iran-aligned Houthi rebels that had seized control of Yemen.

The two sides also pledged to enhance defence cooperation, including efforts to defeat the so-called “Islamic State” and in maritime and cyber security through their new Strategic Partnership.

The statement stressed that regional conflicts can only be resolved through diplomacy.