Jim Shannon MP Strangford, speaking after a recent Parliamentary Defence Select Committee visit to Cyprus, Lebanon and Jordan, said that the opportunity to meet and speak with the defence bodies in the area including the various countries’ Armed Forces was an excellent opportunity for the Defence Select Committee given the instability in the region.
He added: “The visit started in Cyprus with a visit to the British Army Base in Cyprus and the many who serve there are not aware of just how critical their importance is. That importance is stronger now more than ever with the abhorrent fascists calling themselves Islamic State creating havoc, destruction and mayhem and that importance was impressed upon those in Cyprus and their contribution to security valued.”
“Whilst in Cyprus, the nice thing about the visit was that we met with the upper echelons of the command structures as well as the normal every day rank and file service personnel. They are a pillar of stability in the region and a pillar of stability that is far too often unappreciated or forgotten about.”
“I want to thank all those I met with in Cyprus and those who continue to do the good work there to ensure that we have a more secure country, civilisation and world.”
The next leg took the MP’s to Jordan. Jim Shannon added: “Jordan was interesting as we got the opportunity to visit and discuss sites of historical importance we would otherwise not have been aware of.
“In addition to visiting the areas of historical significance we got a detailed briefing on how Jordan has dealt with the influx of refugees from neighbouring Iraq and Syria. Jordan has successfully integrated scores of refugees into their society and there are lessons to be learned there.
“I also had the opportunity to visit and meet with various friends of my APPG on Freedom of Religion and Belief and was able to engage around furthering assistance to the plight of persecuted Christians and other religious minorities.
“Jordan has already proved themselves an ally willing to step up to the plate with their effective destruction of IS/Daesh. We need to resolve in the West to reaffirm our allegiances with Jordan and to support them in their frontline role against the abhorrent Daesh. The fact that there are more women flying fighter jets from Jordan than women driving cars or going out unaccompanied under Daesh is a fact that shows simply whose side we need to be on. Jordan is a friend in the region and the visit to Jordan reminded us of that and the need to reaffirm NATO’s commitment to Jordan.”
Next stop, Lebanon. Jim Shannon said: “It is mentioned 70 times in the Holy Bible. Early flight to take into account possible extra security measures given the country has been torn apart by civil war. The airfield we arrived on was built before the 1st World War!”
“Upon arriving we met with the Lebanese Defence Ministers and Government and were informed that there were connections between Ulster and the Lebanon I didn’t even know existed – the same watch towers that kept the IRA at bay in South Armagh are now in Lebanon keeping people there safe from terrorism.”
“I had a productive meeting with the Ambassador Hugo Shorter, Lebanese Defence Minister and others to see what Lebanon was doing to combat ISIS and what assistance the Defence Select Committee could provide to assist them in their efforts.
“The situation isn’t great in Lebanon but the evidence I seen for progress in terms of Defence and Security in the country was greatly encouraging and we were able to make contacts that will enable the defence committee to facilitate greater cooperation to assist the Lebanese in their fight.
“Then we went over to a meeting with the Lebanese government to speak with MPS and the leaders of the Sunni and Shia and other religious groups including the Christians.”
“All of these individuals share the same concern as the West against the abhorrent Daesh and good contacts were made in this meeting to ensure that the appropriate support is provided to Lebanon to help in the fight against IS.
“The visit on the whole was essential and valued at this time. One of the defining issues of the present situation is the situation in the Middle East and it is a situation that requires a global response. Furthering the cooperation between allies in the region and the West is what needs to be done to ensure justice prevails and the visit gave us a good opportunity to do that.”