10 Feb 2017

Close defence partnership between Britain and Italy

Defence Secretary underlines Britain and Italy’s close defence partnership on NATO and EU operations.

The Defence Secretary, Sir Michael Fallon, in partnership with his counterpart Roberta Pinotti, has said Britain was a key ally of Italy and would not be stepping back from European defence and security commitments following the results of the European Referendum.

During the talks in Rome, they reviewed their partnership within the NATO alliance in particular. The UK has spearheaded NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force this year – a responsibility that Italy will be taking on in 2018.

The Defence Secretary confirmed that the UK and Italy are focused on tackling illegal mass immigration, and that the UK is considering providing more training to Libya’s Coastguard as part of support to Operation Sophia, which focuses on human smugglers and arms traffickers who endanger the lives of migrants seeking travel to Europe.

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said: “In leading NATO’s high readiness force and tackling illegal migration in the Mediterranean, Britain stands together with Italy to tackle threats to our security.

“The Royal Navy has played a key role in training the Libyan Coastguard and we’re now looking at extending this training alongside Italy and other European partners.”

Members of the Coastguard were successfully trained in search and rescue techniques, as well as how to sail alongside, board and inspect vessels, by a small team of specialist Royal Navy Personnel in the southern Mediterranean. The training aimed to increase Libya’s ability to secure its own borders by increasing their Coastguard’s ability to disrupt people smuggling and illegal arms trafficking in and around Libya.

Elsewhere, the UK has also supported NATO counter migration efforts in the Aegean Sea, and HMS Mersey recently returned home following six months supporting this task, contributing to nearly twelve months of Royal Navy presence in the Aegean. She will now undertake maritime security operations around the UK, maintaining the integrity of home waters.

Sir Michael added: “NATO is the cornerstone of our Defence, and the UK remains committed to European security, working with Italy and our European friends to tackle threats.”

Sir Michael also recognised Italy’s contribution to peace operations around the world and domestically, including support to disaster relief operations after earthquakes and heavy snowfall.

Sir Michael extended an invitation to host his Italian counterpart in the UK.

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