x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Gulf countries to hold joint naval exercises with Nato

Four Gulf navies are to take part in maritime exercises with visiting Nato ships this week, the first operation under the 2004 Istanbul Co-operation Initiative (ICI).

MANAMA // Four Gulf navies are to take part in maritime exercises with visiting Nato ships this week, the first operation under the 2004 Istanbul Co-operation Initiative (ICI). The initiative, which calls on the alliance to work with the countries of the region, aims to contribute to long-term global and regional security by offering Middle-Eastern countries security co-operation with Nato.

The German, Turkish and US ships are expected to hold their first joint exercise with the Bahraini Royal Navy today. The exercises will be repeated with other Gulf navies following visits to Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE. Commodore Andreas Xenakis, Nato's deputy chief of staff, operations, who is based in Naples, said last week the aim of the deployment was to further develop relationships with civil and military authorities.

"The reason we are here is to better understand and develop the co-ordination mechanisms we have with the countries of the region so we know them better and they know us better," he said. While the Nato deployment was a different and independent operation from the coalition's other ongoing maritime efforts in the region, Commodore Xenakis admitted some parts of their missions do overlap. "Fighting terrorism is a priority and the countries of the region need our assistance to elaborate their fight against terrorism. It is a common goal for everyone to make the area safer," he said. "The kind of terrorism we are trying to fight does not recognise borders; that is why we have to work closer with each other in order to defeat it".

ICI is part of an effort by Nato to expand the partnership with select countries of the region in areas of security, such as counter-terrorism, defence reform, and co-operation on border security to help prevent illicit trafficking of drugs, weapons and people. mmahdi@thenational.ae