MANAMA, Nov. 19 (BNA): United Kingdom Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs James Cleverly, reaffirmed his country’s long-term partnership with the Kingdom of Bahrain and other countries across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).
In his remarks today at the Manama Dialogue’s first plenary session, “The Changing Geopolitics of energy”, he underlined the depth of the UK’s ties in the region in energy, trade, and security sectors.
Cleverly spoke about the transformation seen by Bahrain, as witnessed by British diplomats over the decades.
“When Britain opened our Embassy here in Bahrain, our diplomats could look out over the waters of the Gulf and watch dhows carrying pearl divers to the northern oyster beds,” he said.
“Yet today our Embassy is almost half a mile from the coast, not because it has moved, but because Bahrain has moved the sea by reclaiming land that once lay beneath the waves.”
He added: “All around us, the Arabian Peninsula has experienced one of the swiftest transformations in history, wrought by the power of hydrocarbons, allowing spectacular cities to rise from empty desert and entire countries to achieve prosperity within a single lifetime.”
He added: “The lesson I draw is that when our friends in the Gulf and the across the region decide to embrace a change, they can reinvent themselves with astonishing speed”.
Cleverly said that another transformation is beginning and that he believed that it will be equally momentous and filled with opportunity – as this region embarks on green energy by harnessing the power of sunlight, wind, and civil nuclear energy.
“As we embark on this journey, I want to assure the region that Britain will remain a steadfast friend and partner, committed to our relationships in the MENA for the long term, building on centuries of tradition,” he said.
Cleverly said: “We know that your security is our security, and any crisis here would inevitably have global repercussions”, adding that the staggering £44 billion annual trade between the UK and the GCC speaks volume of importance and the necessity to maintain this partnership with the region.
“We know that your prosperity is our prosperity, symbolised by the ever-greater flow of trade between us, including over.”
Cleverly said his country welcomed regional initiatives to reinforce stability, including the historic Abraham Accords, which the UK committed to support.
“Britain is convinced that we will only be able to overcome mutual threats and seize opportunities by cooperating ever more closely in all areas of common interest. That is why we are negotiating a free trade agreement (FTA) with the GCC, our fourth biggest export market after the EU, the US and China.”
He said: “That is why we are providing development finance through British International Investment – including $500 million in Egypt and $250 million in Morocco so far.”
“Also, we are deepening our security partnerships with Jordan and Oman and strengthening our cooperation with regional financial centres to clamp on the money laundering by using anti-money laundering joint initiatives.”
Cleverly expressed the UK’s interest in sharing the transition to green energy for the region to ensure that everyone benefits from renewable technologies that are not only practical and affordable, but also ensure a complete energy security.
“I commend Saudi Arabia and the UAE for their plans to invest $350 billion in green energy, and Bahrain for its ambition to double its deployment of renewables by 2035. I draw inspiration from the Green Middle East Initiative, which will help countries to achieve their nationally determined contributions to reduce carbon footprint.”
Cleverly stressed the importance of security for the success of shared ambitions.
“In January I stood in the garden of the British Ambassador’s Residence in Abu Dhabi watching explosions in the sky as incoming Houthi rockets intercepted and shot down overhead – and I can assure you that I gave thanks for the accuracy and efficiency of the UAE’s missile defences.”
He added: “Those trails of light, darting across the sky above me, were visible evidence of how Iranian-supplied weapons threaten the entire region.”
Today, he said, Iran’s nuclear programme is more advanced than ever, and the regime has resorted to selling Russia the armed drones that are killing civilians in Ukraine.
“Britain is determined to collaborate with our friends to counter the Iranian threat, interdict the smuggling of conventional arms, and prevent the regime from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.
Twice this year, he said, a Royal Navy frigate operating in international waters South of Iran intercepted speedboats laden with surface-to-air missiles and engines for cruise missiles.
“Had those engines reached their destination, they could have powered the type of cruise missile that bombarded Abu Dhabi on 17th January, killing three civilians – and the toll would have been higher without the defences that I saw in action few weeks later,” said Cleverly.
“That is why British forces are striving alongside their counterparts in this region to keep us safe and defend the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity which protect every nation.
He said: “Just as those principles remain constant, so I fervently belief that Britain’s friendships across the Middle East and North Africa will deepen and endure, as we uphold peace and security together, and this region masters its second transformation, allowing the new world of green energy to succeed the old.”
Source: Bahrain News Agency