Middle East

Watch: The future of the sea is 'under threat' says UK National Security Adviser

The comments were made at a International Institute for Strategic Studies conference to discuss the Middle East’s security challenges.

Sir Stephen Lovegrove, the UK's National Security Adviser, says the future of the sea "is under threat".

Speaking at the Manama Dialogue in Bahrain, he said "states have chosen to openly contest, selectively reinterpret or discreetly subvert freedom of navigation".

Addressing government ministers and experts gathered to debate the Middle East’s security challenges he gave the example of HMS Defender’s passage through the Black Sea in June.

More than 20 Russian aircraft and two coastguard ships shadowed the British warship sailing near Crimea.

At the time, the Ministry of Defence said the Royal Navy ship was "conducting innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters in accordance with international law".

Sir Stephen Lovegrove told the summit that such activity undermines the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea – UNCLOS – and threatens our collective security and prosperity.

The National Security Adviser said the Royal Navy will be underpinning the UK’s commitment to "ensuring that the future international order remains open and based on global adherence to a shared set of rules".

He went on to say "this year, the UK’s Carrier Strike Group is travelling over 26,000 nautical miles, exercising and operating with 36 of our allies and partners.

"We have not done this because we are hostile to any state.

"It is because we want to show our commitment to the freedom of the seas, open supply chains and global peace and stability, including in the Gulf and in the Indo-Pacific region".

The US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was also speaking at the event put on by the International Institute for Strategic Studies and addressed what he called the "serious security challenges" posed by Iran.

"The United States remains committed to preventing Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon,

"We remain committed to a diplomatic outcome of the nuclear issue but if Iran isn’t willing to engage seriously, then we will look at all the options necessary to keep the United States secure".

He went on to speak about Iran’s rapidly increasing use of attack UAVs saying they are a "constant threat to American troops and a hindrance in the fight against ISIS".