Prime Minister Theresa May’s visit to Bahrain
The visit of UK’s Prime Minister Theresa May to Bahrain to join the GCC Summit is truly a landmark for the ties between the GCC countries and the United Kingdom. The fact that this comes in amongst a flurry of high-level official British visits to Bahrain – including Prince Charles and the Foreign Secretary, and so recently after King Hamad’s visit to the United Kingdom – is a signal that we are at a high point for the bilateral relationship, as we mark 200 years of this historic partnership. And long may it continue.
As the first British Prime Minister to attend a GCC summit – along with being the first female head of state to participate – this is a historic occasion. The United Kingdom is clearly emphasizing its seriousness for strengthening its ties with the region. Britain’s support, solidarity and friendship make it reasonable for us to look to the United Kingdom as the seventh GCC State – in spirit, if not by treaty!
In response to those usual critics who are hostile towards any kind of relationship with the GCC States, 10 Downing Street issued a press releases stating “We achieve far more by stepping up, engaging with these countries and working with them to encourage and support their plans for reform.”
We strongly support Britain’s practical solidarity in pursuing reform and political progress in Bahrain and the region and we welcome the United Kingdom’s support for projects which contribute towards this goal.
The Prime Minister May also made sure to meet with a diverse group of young Bahrainis to stress the UK’s support for reform and for a progressive and prosperous future for Bahraini youth.
The UK’s ongoing engagement with the Gulf has a number of important advantages and will facilitate reform in different sectors across Bahrain and the region. While we face challenges, we certainly need our friends and allies to support us. Britain has provided this balance by continuing to positively engage and encourage reforms in the gulf.
The relations between the Gulf and the UK have been fruitful on many levels. Let us cite a few tangible examples of this:
· Having recently established the permanent Royal Navy base in Bahrain, the UK strengthened its security cooperation with the Gulf and assured that Britain is around as a strong ally and a friend whenever required, in a time of growing regional threats.
· The Prime Minister stressed that “The GCC’s security is our security”. By joining the GCC Summit for the first time, the United Kingdom has delivered a strong message to the world that its alliance with the Gulf will only become stronger and that the GCC states will face their challenges and threats with the UK alongside them.
· Meeting with young Bahrainis, shows that Britain will assist in overcoming the challenges faced by youth and supports the Bahraini government towards more reforms. It also shows that Britain will be supportive of future generations of Bahrainis and that this long-lasting friendship is continuous.
· The economic ties with the Gulf are important and play a big role in the Gulf’s ties with Britain. The Prime Minister also shed light on efforts to enhance free trade with the Gulf, stressing that ‘We are working towards London being the capital of Islamic investment”.
· The United Kingdom is acting as a link between the Gulf and the West at a time when the US foreign policy has failed to keep its own engagement ongoing. The steps taken by the British government to encourage and support reforms has had a great advantage for relations between the UK and the Gulf and the way Britain is perceived in this part of the world. Britain has succeeded in showing that it is a true friend to the people of the Gulf as it has provided a helping hand when needed.
· Last and most importantly, the visit also shows the relevance of the Gulf countries to the world, and that the Gulf is not that way it used to be decades ago. Today the GCC countries are a major player in global economic and security issues. Their importance for the politics of the world needs to be acknowledged. Britain realizes the importance of enhancing ties with the Gulf as the world order has changed.