01 February 2024

US defence secretary says special relationship with UK ‘as strong as ever’

01 February 2024

US defence secretary Lloyd Austin has said the special relationship between the US and UK is “as strong as ever” as he met British Defence Secretary Grant Shapps at the Pentagon.

The pair’s meeting comes on the heels of last month’s co-ordinated strikes against military targets in Houthi-controlled parts of Yemen, which were aimed at diminishing the rebel group’s ability to launch further attacks against vessels operating in international waters.

Mr Austin thanked Mr Shapps for the UK’s aid in the Red Sea as he said the “US-UK special relationship is as strong as ever”.

“The United Kingdom’s partnership is pivotal to addressing these reckless and illegal attacks against military vessels and commercial shipping in the Red Sea,” Mr Austin said.

“We can see Iran’s hand here, as well — providing the Houthis with advanced conventional weapons, intelligence and expertise.

“The US and UK are deeply committed to the rules-based international order and defending the freedom of navigation.”

Mr Austin also said the two nations were working shoulder to shoulder to confront the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas.

He said: “We share the view that Israel must be able to defend itself from Hamas’ terrorism in accordance with international law.

“We also believe that Israel has a duty to avoid harming Palestinian civilians and that the people of Gaza urgently need far more humanitarian assistance.”

Mr Austin added both the US and UK were in sync in terms of support for Ukraine as Russia’s invasion enters its third year.

“I look forward to discussing ways that we can continue to strengthen Ukraine’s capability to defend its sovereign territory,” he said.

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