Britain signed a deal Friday to build a military base in Bahrain -- its first permanent military base in the Middle East since 1971 -- marking an expansion of its naval presence in the region. The construction of the base in the island nation is expected to cost nearly $23 million, BBC News reported.
“This will guarantee the presence of the Royal Navy in Bahrain well into the future,” U.K. Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said in a statement after the deal was signed in Bahrain. “The expansion of Britain’s footprint builds upon our 30-year track record of Gulf patrols and is just one example of our growing partnership with Gulf partners to tackle shared strategic and regional threats.”
The base will host U.K. ships, including destroyers and aircraft carriers, thus providing support to British military operations in the region. As of now, the U.K. military is using a U.S. naval base in Bahrain to launch airstrikes against militants of the Islamic State group in Iraq.
Under the deal, Bahrain will reportedly pay most of the $23 million required to build the base, while Britain will pay the costs to maintain it.
“This new base is a permanent expansion of the Royal Navy’s footprint and will enable Britain to send more and larger ships to reinforce stability in the Gulf,” U.K. Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said in a statement. “We will now be based again in the Gulf for the long term.”
Bahrain welcomed the signing of the deal, with its foreign minister, Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa, saying in a statement it would help maintain “regional security and stability in the face of challenging circumstances.”