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UK to triple size of strategic naval base in Oman with £23.8m investment

The port of Duqm is some 500km away from the Strait of Hormuz [File Photo:Getty]

Date of publication: 12 September, 2020

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A British military base in Oman will soon be tripled in size after the UK announced a £23.8m investment to expand the strategic hub.
The United Kingdom announced plans to triple the size of its military base in Oman, according to an official statement.

Britain said it allocated £23.8 million for the Duqm port expansion project that would facilitate in spreading the Royal Navy in the Indian Ocean, a defence ministry statement said.

"The long standing friendships between the UK and the Gulf states are more important than ever. With shared defence and security interests, it is vital we work together for both regional and global stability. Our trade links are just as strong, too - from cotton to aerospace," Ben Wallace, UK's defence secretary said during a visit to Qatar and Oman.

"Whether tackling Daesh, or making our streets in the UK safer thanks to our intelligence networks, these are hugely valuable relationships that I am pleased to be able to renew this week," he added.

Oman’s Duqm is at the centre of the sultanate’s ambitious plans to transform its oil and gas-reliant economy, with a string of ports along its coast.

The sleepy fishing village has been the main focus of the government's diversification efforts, with a port, dry dock and free zone being built to attract investment to this relatively isolated part of the sultanate.

Ras al-Markaz is hosting a refinery and oil storage facilities for exporting to Asia and elsewhere.

However, the port of Duqm is just 500km away from the strategic Strait of Hormuz, where up to 30 percent of the global oil exports pass annually.

Iran and its arch enemy the United States have traded barbs in the past year over a spate of incidents in the sensitive waters of the Gulf.

The escalation of Iran-US tensions last year saw ships mysteriously attacked, drones downed and oil tankers seized in the strait.

On Friday, the Iranian navy said it drove off American aircraft that flew close to an area where military exercises were underway near the Strait of Hormuz.

The military said three US aircraft - a P-8 airplane, a MQ-9 drone and a RQ-4 drone - were detected by Iran's air force radars after they entered the country's air defence identification zone, according to its website.

After "ignoring warnings by Iran's defence systems to keep away from the drill zone" the aircraft were tracked by an Iranian drone before "they changed course and left the zone", it added.

In June last year, a US RQ-4 drone was shot down by Iran after allegedly violating the Islamic republic's airspace - a claim the US has denied.

The sworn enemies have come to the brink of direct confrontation twice since then.

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