By Joey Aguilar/Staff Reporter
A British minister expects a continuing need for investing in defence and security due to the ongoing conflicts and persistent threats in the region.
“We are living in an increasingly dangerous world and there are increasing tensions that you are very well aware of in the Middle East,” UK Minister of State for Defence
Procurement Philip Dunne has said.
According to the minister, countries tend to prioritise defence spending when they feel threatened irrespective of what is happening in their economy.
He was responding to a query on the impact of the oil price crisis on some countries which are investing in defence to boost their military capabilities.
The crisis came at a time when the region is faced with lots of challenges in dealing with terrorism particularly the fight against IS.
Citing UK’s contribution to the campaign against IS, Dunne said they had flown more than 1,000 missions in the last 18 months in Syria and Iraq.
“We had a very important vote in parliament in the UK early December following which we were in a position to undertake strike activity in Syria as well in Iraq,” Dunne, who was on a Doha visit, said.
UK had undertaken more than 550 strikes over Iraq and about 30 over Syria. It also provided more than 60% of the surveillance in that field for the coalition efforts.
“It is a very significant contribution and we have about a thousand personnel involved in that effort,” he stressed.
According to Dunne, the UK and Qatar have long standing defence relationship endorsed by the defence co-operation agreement between the two countries. Members of the Qatari Armed Forces also come to the UK for training.
“The UK is looking to find ways that can work together to learn from each other, to provide more training and exercises opportunities,” the minister said, adding that a number of military exercises take place in the region every year.
UK-Qatar defence business also grew significantly with more contracts signed since 2012 when Dunne first visited the country after his appointment as minister.
A British military vessel will be among the warships from different countries to dock at the Doha Commercial Port as part of the Doha International Maritime Defence Exhibition and Conference (Dimdex) taking place from March 29 to 31.
“The UK defence secretary is intending to come and we will have HMS defender Type 45 Class present at the Dimdex this year,” Dunne said. “It is one of our most capable ships.”
He noted that the state-of-the-art naval ship has been active and operates in the Gulf to help protect French and American aircraft carriers.
Besides Qatar, he said they also have strong defence ties with different countries around the region including GCC countries.
“For the first time since 1970, we will have naval vessels operating from Bahrain for like three years,” the minister added. UK has started constructing a permanent base in Bahrain last year.
Russia prolonging campaign against IS: UK minister
The intervention of Russia on the side of the Syrian government will prolong the campaign against Islamic State (IS), UK’s Minister of State for Defence Procurement Philip Dunne has said.
“It is going to be very difficult to find a solution and the war has been going for five years now,” he stressed.
With this situation, the minister finds it “very unfortunate” to bring the political consensus needed to end what he described as “a very complicated civil war.”
The UK has been actively engaged in the campaign against the terrorist group in their attempt to destabilise other countries in the region.
According to the minister, UK also provides support to the moderate opposition groups in terms of training and “provision of non-lethal equipment and humanitarian aid in assistance into Syria.”
“We are the second largest donor to the Syrian people who are displaced to the camps in neighbouring countries,” Dunne added.
The UK minister also sees their efforts to push for a ceasefire through diplomatic routes as a positive step. Other allies are also using diplomatic efforts to persuade Russia to change its posture and act on its promise.
About the London Conference held recently, the minister said they had been successful in building international support for post conflicts particularly in rebuilding Syria.
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