“The UK has been clear that a diplomatic solution remains the key focus of our efforts and we call on all actors to de-escalate current tensions,” said Lieutenant General Sir John Lorimer, Senior Advisor, Middle East. He was talking to Binsal Abdulkader, a journalist with official UAE news agency WAM
The UK’s current military deployments in the Middle East are not a direct response to the existing US-Iran tensions in the region, according to a top British defence official.
“The current UK deployments are pre-planned and are not a direct response [to the existing tensions],” Lieutenant General Sir John Lorimer, the UK’s Defence Senior Advisor to the Middle East, who recently visited the UAE, told the Emirates News Agency, WAM.
“Our continued military presence demonstrates this intent. We have over 1500 personnel permanently stationed in the region, along with several Royal Navy ships and some of the most advanced military aircraft,” he added.
The British official, however, affirmed that his country is seeking a diplomatic solution and a de-escalation of the tensions.
“The UK has been clear that a diplomatic solution remains the key focus of our efforts and we call on all actors to de-escalate current tensions,” he said.
“In targeting civilian shipping, international norms have been violated. It is essential that trade is able to pass safely through international waters in this region and we are working closely with our partners to restore maritime security in the Gulf,” he added.
The UK, along with the US and European partners, have recently expressed their concern at Iran’s announcement that it has exceeded the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPoA, stockpile limit for low enriched uranium.
Talking about that, Sir John Lorimer said, “We have been consistent and clear that our commitment to the nuclear deal depends on full compliance by Iran. We regret this decision by them, which calls into question an essential instrument of nuclear non-proliferation.”
“The UK urges Iran to reverse this step and to refrain from further measures that undermine the nuclear deal. We are urgently considering next steps under the terms of the JCPoA in close coordination with other JCPoA participants,” he added.
The UK’s Defense Senior Advisor to the Middle East praised the UAE Armed Forces, describing it as “one of the most experienced and capable militaries in the region.”
“It is an honour for the UK to have such a strong and longstanding relationship with the UAE Army.
“We continue to support a regular programme of training, advice and exercises, in line with mutual development objectives. The UK remains committed to promoting regional stability and security through our work with the UAE Armed Forces,” he added.
His visit, last month, to the UAE was the third this year. He said during the last visit that “the longstanding friendship between the UAE and the UK runs deeper than defence engagement and trust remains critical to our success.”
The UK remains strongly committed to working with all regional partners to develop modern, capable and agile armed forces, he emphasised. “In support of this objective, we hosted a meeting of military leaders from across the region on 4 July [in the UK],” said the veteran military official.
“This forum provides a means for peers to exchange their ideas and work more closely together on a shared transformation journey, in an ever-changing world,” he added.
The forum was a follow-up to the successful meeting of the GCC, Egypt and Jordan Chiefs of Defence, hosted by the UK Chief of Defence Staff General Sir Nick Carter in Oman last November, Sir Lorimer added.
The UK government wants to expedite decisions on new licences for arms export to Saudi Arabia and its allies, despite an adverse court order in this regard, said Sir John.
“Our intention is to take new export licencing decisions as soon as we can put in place the right processes,” Sir John Lorimer added.
“The UK Government has always taken its export control obligations very seriously and we seek to address this matter as soon as possible, in accordance with our legal obligations,” he added.
The UK Court of Appeal ruled on 20th June that the British arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which could be deployed by the Arab Coalition to restore the legitimate government in Yemen, were “unlawful,” a step that Sir John Lorimer labelled as “disappointing.”
“The UK is disappointed with the recent decision, and we are appealing the outcome. Our commitment to the security of the Gulf remains unchanged. This judgement does not immediately affect existing export licences, which will continue to be valid,” Lt. Gen. Lorimer said.
“However, we cannot currently grant new licences for Saudi Arabia and [Arab] Coalition partners for items that might be used in the conflict in Yemen, while we consider the implications of the judgement,” the British official who studied Arabic and Islamic Studies at Cambridge University from 1985 to 1988, added.
“The commitment of the UK to the security of Saudi Arabia and the stability of the region remains unchanged. The UK’s security is intertwined with that of the Middle East; our values require us to play our part in making a constructive difference, and our unique links mean that we have the ability to do so,” the British defence senior advisor went on to say.
The UK continues to lead a sustained diplomatic campaign to support the UN-led peace process to resolve the conflict in Yemen, he affirmed.
“We have used our diplomatic reach to bring those fighting together around the table to find a political solution. We need the international community to do the same. We are also working to provide humanitarian assistance to Yemen,” Lt. Gen. Lorimer noted.
“A UN-backed peace process is the only way we will achieve lasting peace, security and stability in Yemen and everyone has to play their part,” he added.
About the military campaign of the Global Coalition Against Daesh in the Middle East, he commented, “The UK has been clear that Daesh remains a threat to the UK, to our interests and those of our partners and allies in the region.”
“By trying to direct and inspire attacks worldwide, Daesh will continue to assert its presence, and threaten us at home. We urge all members of the Global Coalition to remain committed to ensuring the enduring defeat of Daesh,” the official concluded.
Lieutenant General Sir John Lorimer joined the British Army in 1981 and he was commissioned into the Parachute Regiment. He served in all three regular Parachute Regiment battalions in a number of regimental appointments and attended the Army Staff College in 1994.
On various senior positions during his long career, he served the British Army in Northern Ireland, Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan.
He became Chief of Joint Operations, CJO, from October 2014 until June 2017. In January 2018, he took over as Defence Senior Advisor to the Middle East.