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Sun 14 Jul 2019 09:57 AM

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UK currently has 1,500 military personnel in the Middle East, says defence official

Top British defence official said it was part of normal operations and not linked to tensions with Iran

UK currently has 1,500 military personnel in the Middle East, says defence official
Image for illustrative purposes only.

The United Kingdom currently has 1,500 personnel, as well as several Royal Navy ships and military aircraft in the region, but their presence is not directly related to the current tensions with Iran and British officials are hoping for a diplomatic resolution to the situation.

"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 WAM state news agency.

"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 defence official said the London government was hoping for a diplomatic solution and a de-escalation of the tensions with Tehran.

"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.

Last week, AFP reported that three Iranian ships attempted to "impede the passage" of a British oil tanker in Gulf waters, forcing a UK frigate to intervene.

"Contrary to international law, three Iranian vessels attempted to impede the passage of a commercial vessel, British Heritage, through the Strait of Hormuz," a UK government statement said of the incident.