The UK will lead a Gulf joint maritime force to deter piracy, tackle terrorism, and disrupt smuggling, the Defence Secretary has announced.
Speaking during a visit to Qatar today, Michael Fallon announced that from April, the UK will lead the Combined Task Force (CTF150), which covers two million square miles, including the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Indian Ocean and Gulf of Oman - an area that is a vital artery of world trade.
The activities of CTF150 directly influence events ashore, denying terrorist groups, including Daesh, a risk-free method of conducting attacks or moving personnel, weapons or income generating narcotics.
Speaking in Qatar today Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said:
The UK has one of the strongest navies in the world and we are looking forward to leading this important joint force.
This underlines our commitment to working with allies to fight Daesh and tackle terrorism across the region.
Mr Fallon made the announcement on board HMS Defender, the Type 45 Destroyer currently patrolling the Gulf. The permanent presence of the Royal Navy in the Middle East helps to keep maritime trade flowing and safeguards the UK economy by countering piracy and policing the flow of oil and gas into our ports.
Leading CTF150 will see the UK alongside international partners, including countries that make up the 31 nation Combined Maritime Forces. CTF150 vessels will also assist mariners in distress and undertake humanitarian work as required.
While in Qatar the Defence Secretary also attended the Doha International Maritime Defence Exhibition and Conference (DIMDEX) in support of over 15 UK companies exhibiting a range of world leading capabilities in the defence and security sectors with the aim of identifying joint venture partnerships and opportunities as Qatar modernises its armed forces. Stephen Phipson Head UKTI DSO also attended to highlight the important UK/Qatar defence and security relationship.
Mr Fallon’s visit follows his signing of a new Defence Cooperation Arrangement (DCA) between Qatar and UK in London last week. The agreement will enable closer coordination on training and exercises.
The DCA was signed by Mr Fallon and Qatari counterpart His Excellency Dr Khalid bin Mohamed Al Attiyah; the Ministers subsequently discussed the need to tackle terrorism in Iraq, Syria and Libya.
The Defence Secretary underlined the importance of the global coalition making progress against Daesh including restricting its ability to conduct attacks in Europe.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon added:
The UK has strong and growing ties with Qatar and this new Defence agreement underlines our commitment to one of our most important regional allies.
Last week’s attacks in Brussels are a reminder that all of us, the Gulf and Europe, must stand together to defeat Daesh and disrupt its attack planning.
The new agreement will enhance the security of both countries, including joint military exercises, training and Defence exports.
During his visit to the Gulf region, Mr Fallon also visited Saudi Arabia to help strengthen the UK-Saudi Defence relationship. Mr Fallon met with HRH Prince Muhammad bin Naif bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Crown Prince and Minister of Interior, Deputy Crown Prince and Defence Minister HRH Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz, and other members of the Saudi Royal family. During these talks he reiterated the importance of working together to deal with global threats, including countering the poisonous ideology of Daesh, and regional instability.