Wed | Nov 25, 2020

UK hosts regional defence conference to optimise mutual support

Published:Friday | November 20, 2020 | 12:06 AM

United Kingdom (UK) Chief of Defence Staff, General Sir Nick Carter, on Tuesday hosted a successful inaugural defence conference with his fellow chiefs of defence from across the Caribbean region.

The much-welcomed initiative is the only UK-Caribbean defence engagement event held at this senior level of leadership, with the aim being to optimise mutual support, and to leverage the strengths of each individual nation for the benefit of collective regional security, working in cooperation with the UK.

There was unanimous agreement among participating nations that this high-level engagement should become an annual event, enabling the sharing of best practice, discussion of issues that unite the UK with our Caribbean partners, and as a means of driving forward developments.

Defence heads from Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, The Bahamas, Belize, the Dominican Republic, Guyana, Jamaica, St Kitts and Nevis and Trinidad and Tobago were all in virtual attendance.

The Caribbean focused conference comes just months after Sir Nick Carter made an unpublicised, 24-hour working visit to Jamaica in January, the first to the region in a long time by the head of the UK military.

Speaking immediately after the two-hour conference, UK Defence Attaché to the Caribbean, Lt Col Simon Westlake of the Royal Marines, noted that while the COVID pandemic prevented a physical inaugural conference, the use of a virtual platform did not inhibit the UK’s most senior military leader from having fulsome, constructive talks with his Caribbean partners.

“Following his visit to the region earlier this year, General Sir Nick Carter was very keen to continue his discussions with our Caribbean partners and this conference was the next natural step. We have common values, common interests and face shared threats – and UK Defence will work closely with our Caribbean partners to tackle the challenges that we all face,” Westlake reasoned.

“While initiatives agreed at this event will be considered for further work, planning will start now for a larger, and hopefully physical, conference next year. Hosted by respective British diplomatic posts for the conference, chiefs of defence were able to continue their discussions with British high commissioners and ambassadors for an extended period over lunch,” he added.

UK ships, with coalition partners, have recently seized £377 million of illegal narcotics in eight carefully planned boarding operations in the Caribbean, while British ship RFA ARGUS is now supporting relief efforts in Honduras, with British soldiers in Belize having supported relief efforts there following Hurricane Eta.