A base for the Royal Navy will be established in Bahrain under a landmark deal to bolster security in the Gulf.
The UK already has four minehunters permanently based at the Mina Salman Port, but the plans will allow for an increase in the number of warships sent to the area.
Although military chiefs are understood to have been working towards the move for around two years, the threat from Islamic State has heightened the focus on Britain’s presence in the region.
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond signed the deal with Bahrain’s foreign minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa.
Mr Hammond said: “This will guarantee the presence of the Royal Navy in Bahrain well into the future. 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.”
Under the deal, the existing facilities at the port will be expanded and a forward operating base established.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said: “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. We will now be based again in the Gulf for the long term.”
Sheikh Khalid said: “It reaffirms our joint determination to maintain regional security and stability in the face of challenging circumstances, and gives further strength to our multifaceted partnership.
“Bahrain looks forward to the early implementation of today’s arrangement and to continuing to work with the UK and other partners to address threats to regional security.”