By Mohamed Fahd
MANAMA (AA) - Britain has inaugurated a permanent naval base in Bahrain -- its first in the Middle East since 1971 -- according to the Bahraini News Agency (BNA).
An inauguration ceremony was held Thursday evening attended by Bahraini Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Britain’s Prince Andrew, and a host of political and military officials from both countries.
“The launch of the U.K. Naval Support Facility is a milestone in U.K./Bahraini efforts to promote regional security,” Al Khalifa said at the ceremony.
“It is also a clear indication of the strength of our bilateral relations,” he added.
The new facility, the crown prince went on, “reflects Bahrain’s support for the international coalition against terrorism and will also contribute to global security by safeguarding maritime activity and global trade”.
Prince Andrew, for his part, stressed both countries’ keenness to step up bilateral cooperation, hailing the “burgeoning partnership” between Bahrain and the U.K.
According to Bahraini Foreign Minister Khaled bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, the new facility is the U.K.’s first permanent maritime base in the region since 1971.
The base, the foreign minister added, will serve as one of the British Royal Navy’s most important support facilities outside British territorial waters.
In late 2014, the British Foreign Office announced that Manama and London had signed an agreement allowing the latter to set up a military base in Bahrain, which also currently hosts the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet.