PLANS for Britain to establish its first permanent Royal Navy base in the Middle East in more than 40 years have been welcomed.
The base, at the Mina Salman Port in Bahrain, will host ships including destroyers and aircraft carriers.
It would be the first base in the area since the Royal Navy formally withdrew from the region back in 1971.
Bahrain will pay most of the £15m needed to build the base, with the British paying ongoing costs.
The government says it will ‘reinforce stability’ in the Gulf, while it will also allow ships to spend longer in the Middle East and improve the welfare of those who serve in the region.
Former First Sea Lord Admiral Lord Alan West said: ‘I think it’s a good idea. We have had mine-counter vessels based there for years.
‘It’s fine for a few months but they have been there a few years now.
‘Having a proper base there is a very good thing.
‘It will be better for our frigates or destroyers that are out there.
‘It’s been on the cards to have this made into a proper military base for some time but there’s been a lot of dialogue going on about the funding.’
Lord West added: ‘It’s going to help. We had a navy base there for many years but that closed in the early 1970s.
‘It meant we had a presence in the region so we could stop wars happening. It’s good to have a proper base.
‘It shows that we feel the area is important.
‘It reassures those countries that we feel it is important and that we aren’t just transitory.’
UK foreign secretary Philip Hammond, who signed the deal at a security conference in Manama, Bahrain, said it was ‘just one example of our growing partnership with Gulf partners to tackle shared strategic and regional threats’.
He said the new base would accommodate ships including Type 45 destroyers.
UK defence secretary Michael Fallon added: ‘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.’