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UK Ambassadorís Farewell: My Task Was to Lead UKís Re-engagement with Bahrain as a Partner & Ally

2015-06-19 - 9:46 p

Bahrain Mirror: The outgoing British Ambassador Iain Lindsay delivered his farewell speech as his term in Bahrain comes to an end. Lindsay stated that during his four-year assignment as Britain's Ambassador to the Kingdom of Bahrain, he witnessed "a remarkable transformation in UK/Bahrain relations" since 2011.

In his address which he delivered to the Bahrain British Business Forum on Wednesday (June 17, 2015), the outgoing UK ambassador said: "The UK and Bahrain signed a landmark defence agreement in the margins of the IISS Manama Dialogue. It was, in my view, our most important bilateral agreement with Bahrain since independence in 1971."

"The clear task I was given by the British Government in the aftermath of the unrest of early 2011 (...) was to lead the UK's re-engagement (or reconciliation) with Bahrain, a partner, an ally and a close friend, but with whom our relations had gone through a tough patch in the first half of 2011," he added.

"But that overall process of re-engagement, rebuilding trust and confidence, was made immeasurably easier by three things. First, the establishment of BICI (...) Second, and more importantly, King Hamad's acceptance in November 2011 of the recommendations of what was a highly critical report, for example confirming that there had been systemic use of torture," Lindsay further stated, stressing that "Bahrain had taken its steps and we the UK now took our step.

We, and here in Bahrain that very much meant me, reached out to senior Bahrainis on all sides and said that we wanted to help Bahrain to move forward, specifically helping with the implementation of the BICI recommendations. That did not mean ignoring the abuses that had happened and were continuing to occur but a recognition that if we wanted to see the changes recommended in the BICI report, which Bahrain had accepted, it behooved us as a close friend to step forward and offer to engage and help, not least as it was blindingly obvious that Bahrain had, and continues to have, capacity and capability problems."
"The fact that nearly 4 years on we have in Bahrain the largest programme of British reform support in the region and that here in Bahrain the UK is by far the largest provider of reform support suggests to me that we re-engaged, that we rebuilt trust and confidence and, as a consequence have built a much stronger bilateral relationship. (...) It was now better than at any time since independence in 1971," the outgoing British ambassador explained.

Lindsay further stressed: "Three years later and the UK is in a league of its own in providing judicial, human rights, prisons and security sector reform assistance to key ministries and institutions, including capacity building and training, with regular visits to and from the UK involving e.g. the National School of Government International, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons, (...) to mention but a few of the British organisations involved. I am immensely proud of this work, of the impact that it is making, of the willingness of our Bahrain partners to engage and to broaden their ambition, of the commitment of the UK experts and of my team at the Embassy."

Before ending his speech, Lindsay declared: "We do not claim that everything is perfect. There are still issues which cause us concern. Let me repeat to you the comments made yesterday by British Foreign Office Minister for the Middle East and North Africa Tobias Ellwood on Sheikh Ali Salman: I am concerned by the verdict and the sentence handed down. I raised this case with the Bahraini authorities during my visit last weekend. I understand that Sheikh Ali Salman can still choose to appeal the court's decision."

He; however, concluded his address by saying: "With Bahrain I think we are already on the right track. We are showing that we can do enhanced defence and security and reform support at the same time. It does not need to be a zero sum game. Either this or that. But, you need the trust and confidence and the credibility to be partners across such a diverse range of issues and interests."

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