Manama: Bahrain is keen to improve its relations and cooperation with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa has said.
Receiving a delegation from Nato’s Parliament Assembly Sub-Committee on Transatlantic Defence and Security Cooperation, King Hamad said that Bahrain, a major non-Nato ally, wanted to boost ties with the alliance and to exchange expertise in areas that reinforced security, stability and peace in the region and the world, Bahrain News Agency (BNA) reported.
The Bahraini monarch, whose country was declared a major non-Nato ally in 2002, praised Nato’s “positive efforts and effective contributions to bringing peace and preserving security and stability in the region and other areas throughout the world.”
King Hamad also expressed his gratitude to Nato for its “keen interest in developing cooperation with Bahrain in the military and security fields.”
The visiting delegation, headed by Sir John Stanley, included members from the UK, Turkey, France, Estonia, Belgium, Portugal, The Netherlands and Croatia. Bahrain and other Gulf Cooperation Council countries have been pushing for closer cooperation with the transatlantic alliance since 2004 when Nato launched the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative to “contribute to long-term global and regional security by offering GCC countries practical bilateral security cooperation with Nato. Nato officials said the ICI was complementary, but distinct from the Mediterranean Dialogue Nato launched in December 1994, with countries in North Africa and eastern Mediterranean.
Kuwait joined the ICI in December 2004, followed by Bahrain and Qatar in February 2005 and the UAE in June 2005.
In 2006, Kuwait was the first ICI country to host the North Atlantic Council for a conference on cooperation with Gulf Countries. The NAC later took part in conferences in Bahrain in 2008 and the UAE in 2009.
In December, Kuwait announced that it allocated a piece of land to Nato in Kuwait as part of the ICI.
“The move consolidates Kuwait’s interest in international missions, especially that Kuwait was the first GCC country to join the ICI,” Shaikh Sabah Al Khalid, the deputy prime minister and foreign minister, said.
The land will be used by Nato as a training site under the ICI, he added.
“We are interested in the region’s security and stability and in being partners with anyone who seeks to achieve them. We are also interested in facilitating everything that is related to our contacts and consultations with Nato,” the minister said, quoted by Kuwait News Agency (Kuna).
The Nato training site in Kuwait is the first to be set up in a GCC state.
At its Chicago summit in May, Nato in its final communique said that it looked forward to a better understanding of common security threats in the region.
“We will strengthen political dialogue and practical cooperation in the ICI,” the communique said. “We warmly welcome the generous offer by the State of Kuwait to host an ICI Regional Centre, which will help us to better understand common security challenges, and discuss how to address them together. We encourage our ICI partner countries to be proactive in exploiting the opportunities offered by their partnership with Nato. We remain open to receiving new members in the ICI,” the 28-member alliance said.