UK defense secretary to hold talks on Syria, Iraq today

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UK Defense Secretary Philip Hammond will arrive in Jeddah on Tuesday in the first part of a four-nation tour focusing on key regional issues, including Iraq and Syria’s civil war.

“Hammond is set to hold talks with high-ranking Saudi officials before heading for another Gulf country,” confirmed a source here Monday, who refused to be identified.

In his wide-ranging talks with senior Saudi officials, Hammond, who will pay a “brief visit” to the port city of Jeddah, will discuss and evaluate the threat posed by violence in Iraq and pledge his country’s strong commitment to work closely with the Gulf countries.

The defense secretary will also reassure wary Gulf allies in the wake of civil war and uprisings in several countries of the region.

According to a report, the defense secretary will meet with foreign and defense ministers of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait and Qatar as alarm grows in Westminster about the risk of British militants who join the ISIS returning to Britain to launch attacks.

“The UK is deeply concerned by the recent developments in Iraq,” said Hammond prior to his departure to Jeddah from London.

“Although the UK is not planning a military intervention, we are committed to finding a long-term political solution,” Hammond said. “We remain committed to the security of the Gulf, and want to reassure our friends and allies that we will do everything possible to support those who are working for a stable and democratic Iraqi state and to alleviate humanitarian suffering.”

Saudi Arabia and the UK have forged closer ties in the defense sector.

Sales of defense and security equipment by UK companies remain a significant component of Saudi-British relations through the years.

In fact, the UK is one of the three largest suppliers to Saudi Arabia alongside the US and France. This is in addition to the progressively growing relations between Riyadh and London in several sectors, especially in areas of trade, commerce and education.

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