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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 October 2018

Military games cement British-Omani relationship

UK Minister Alistair Burt described Oman as a lynchpin of the Middle East

Alistair Burt, the UK's Middle East minister. Galen Clarke/The National
Alistair Burt, the UK's Middle East minister. Galen Clarke/The National

The UK has lauded its relationship with Oman, as the two countries begin the region’s biggest military training exercise in more than a decade.

Royal Navy ships, Royal Air Force planes and British Army troops are descending on the Omani desert in preparation for Operation Saif Sareea 3, the largest exercise of its type in the region for 17 years, and Britain’s largest for more than 15 years.

The last iteration of the exercise took place in 2001, and featured 11,000 Omani troops.

Speaking on his arrival in Oman, UK Minister for the Middle East, Alistair Burt described Oman as a “lynchpin” of the region, noting the country’s expertise on “Yemen, Syria and wider Gulf issues”, and that it would be an opportunity to discuss those issues.

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Oman has served as something of an intermediary between warring sides during Yemen’s civil war, with officials from the Arab-Coaltion, the government of Abdrabu Mansur Hadi and the Houthi often passing through Muscat and Salalah.

Mr Burt’s trip will also see him take in several other areas between the Gulf state and Britain, including a joint venture between the English Premier League and Oman Football Association in conjunction with Premier League team Bournemouth FC which will see British football coaches training Omani coaches.

Mr Burt also announced a Joint Working Group, which was set to take place on Sunday with a view to strengthening investment, trade and tourism ties between the two countries.

Also visiting Oman this week was Britain’s Minister for the Armed Forces, Mark Lancaster.

Relations between the two countries run deep since Oman's independence in 1970. The Omani military is the only importer of the Challenger 2 tank – Britain main battle tank.

Former UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was the last senior British figure to visit Oman, in December, when he attempted to press for release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian teacher detained in Iran.