UK could explore arms embargo as option to bring Iran into line: Defense Minister

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The UK could explore the option of extending the arms embargo on Iran as a means of bringing Tehran’s destabilizing regional behavior into line, said the UK’s Secretary of State for Defense Ben Wallace, despite the country voting against the US proposal to extend the embargo at the UN Security Council.

In a wide-ranging exclusive interview with Al Arabiya, Wallace discussed how the UK still believes in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal as the best way of containing Iran’s threat to the region, despite the Iranians breaching the deal and the US withdrawing from it.

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Although the UK voted against extending the current UN arms embargo on Iran along with Germany and France, Wallace told Al Arabiya that an arms embargo is a tool that the UK government could explore in the future.

“Whoever breaches it [the Iran nuclear deal], causes us problems so we have to try and get to a place where we bring people back into line. Returning to the arms embargo, or not lifting the arms embargo, it is one of the tool that we can all explore. For now we are trying to bring them back into compliance. The arms embargo doesn’t come out for a few weeks, that is where we can make other decisions,” he said.

Wallace also clarified that the UK would not have a military relationship with Iran regardless of the lifting of the arms embargo, and had not sold arms to Tehran for many years due to its support for terrorism and destabilizing activities.

“Iran’s behavior in the region, supporting terrorism, it’s supporting terrorism, it’s supporting destabilizing activities around the region everywhere from the Lebanese Hezbollah, all the way to the Houthis in Yemen. All of that means the UK is not in any way interested in engaging with military cooperation with Iran or arms sales that are currently threatening all of our shipping in the Strait of Hormuz,” he said.

The arms embargo is set to expire on October 18, 2020.

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Deep, historic relations with Saudi Arabia

Wallace also said that the UK and Saudi Arabia have deep, historic relations ahead of his upcoming visit to the Kingdom.

“We have been side by side nearly a hundred years on many issues, Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom. Our relationship is deep, it’s long and it is not just about defense industrial sales and defense partnering,” he told Al Arabiya.

The UK helps keep Saudi Arabia safe from attacks by Iran or the Iran-backed Houthi militia in Yemen, explained Wallace, adding that the UK would continue to sell arms to Saudi Arabia.

Wallace is set to visit the Kingdom this week, where he will meet with Saudi Arabia's deputy defense minister and a range of other defense and military officials and partners.

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