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Foreign Secretary visits Bahrain

Foreign Secretary William Hague today visited Bahrain on the final leg of his visit to the Middle East which has included stops in Tunisia, Jordan, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates.

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Whilst in Bahrain the Foreign Secretary met with His Majesty the King and other senior members of the Bahraini Government. Speaking at a joint press conference with Foreign Minister HE Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa he commented on his “very productive discussions about foreign and security issues in the Middle East, where Britain and Bahrain have many common interests and indeed many common opinions and approaches”. During his trip he had visited British naval personnel stationed in Bahrain who are engaged in crucial counter-piracy and counter-terrorism operations, and thanked the Foreign Minister for Bahrain’s “very valuable cooperation in defence and security”.

Speaking about the opportunities for greater political openness and economic development in the Middle East he said:

“We think it is a moment of opportunity in the Middle East, with calls for greater economic and political openness in some countries, and a renewed focus on the needs and aspirations of young people in the region. We believe it is important for there to be an effective response to the aspirations of the people of Egypt.

I always stress that all the countries in the region are very different. Here, you have made many important political reforms alongside your growing economic success. We strongly welcome such steps. I know from my meetings today that Bahrain intends to build on these in the future”.

He again made the case for urgent progress on the Middle East peace Process. He said the international community needed to show “resolve and energy in the coming months in particular the Middle East Peace Process. In Britain we believe that now is the time to accelerate efforts to restart negotiations on the two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, before the window for such an agreement closes, an agreement based on 1967 borders. In our view it is in the interests of all parties to make urgent progress and to begin to lay the foundations for a lasting agreement which cannot safely be deferred”.

The Foreign Secretary also stressed that “we must not allow our attention to be deflected from the growing threat of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East”. He reiterated the high disappointment of the E3+3 at the recent Istanbul talks when “Iran refused to discuss its nuclear programme or to accept the generous offer from the E3+3” and said:

“The door to negotiations remains open. But talks must be credible, and must address Iran’s nuclear activities. In the absence of a willingness from Iran to negotiate, Britain will now work with the international community to intensify the peaceful and legitimate pressure on Iran to comply with UN Security Council Resolutions and the requirements of the IAEA.

Our government has made it a priority to increase consultation with our partners in the Gulf on foreign policy issues including Iran, and we will step up that cooperation over the coming months, as part of our drive to elevate our ties with all our allies in the region, including Bahrain”.

Commenting on Bahrain’s celebration of forty years of independence, the Foreign Secretary sent a message to the Bahraini people:

“It is a landmark in your history; a time to celebrate your many remarkable achievements as a nation. But in Britain we also see it as a milestone in the long friendship between our two countries - a relationship which we value enormously, which we will never take for granted, and which we will work to strengthen further in the years to come”.

Published 17 February 2011