Manama: Kuwait inaugurated the offices of its first diplomatic mission to Nato in Brussels in a significant step to strengthen cooperation.

The mission was opened by Kuwait’s deputy foreign minister Khalid Al Jarallah and Nato’s Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs and Security Policy, Alejandro Alvargonzález.

“This mission will contribute to strengthening the relationship between Kuwait and Nato,” Al Jarallah told reporters following the ribbon-cutting ceremony. The mission will be headed by Jassim Al Budiawi, Kuwait’s ambassador to Belgium and the European Union.

Nato has a regional centre in Kuwait financed by the local government, and considered the best centre of the 29-member alliance outside its headquarters in Brussels, according to the Kuwait News Agency.

“We have strong relationships and cooperation with Nato in terms of training, studies, research and political dialogue. Kuwait was the first GCC member to join Nato’s Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI), launched in 2004 to boost cooperation with Arabian Gulf countries,” Al Jarallah said.

“We are keen on strengthening and deepening cooperation with Nato and we feel that the transatlantic alliance is also interested in the role of Kuwait in the region and globally.”

Kuwait looks forward to broader cooperation with and regular visits to its Nato friends, he added.

Alvargonzález told Kuwait News Agency and Kuwait TV the diplomatic mission was “one more step that coincides with all the efforts and all the splendid behaviour of Kuwait with Nato”.

“Kuwait is hosting Nato’s regional centre and now is opening its mission here and this is very good news for us all. Kuwait is a country that exports stability and we would like it to continue enhancing our cooperation. We are very happy about that. Today we are rejoicing in the fact that we can be together planning for the future,” he said.

The Nato-ICI Regional Centre, inaugurated in Kuwait City in January 2017, aims “to improve common understanding of security challenges by creating a level of inter-operability and standardisation that enables closer cooperation between the alliance and its partners in the region.”

Nato said during its first year, 14 courses and activities were carried out at the Centre, 478 officers from ICI and GCC countries were trained and 149 instructors and experts travelled to the Centre to deliver the courses.

Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE are members of ICI while the remaining two GCC - Saudi Arabia and Oman - plan to join.

“The partnerships we will strengthen through this Centre are vitally important to Nato because the security of Gulf countries is directly linked to the security of all Allies,” Nato’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said at the opening of the centre.

“We face common security threats like terrorism, weapons proliferation, and cyber-attacks. And we share the same aspirations for peace and for stability. So, it is essential that we work more closely together than ever before. We have now developed individual cooperation programmes with all our Gulf partners because modern security institutions and well-trained local forces represent our best weapons in the fight against violent extremism.”