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Theresa May: UK must engage with Gulf states on human rights

Britain needs to engage with Gulf states on human rights rather than "snipe" from the sidelines, Theresa May has said.

The Prime Minister moved to fend off criticism she was putting profits before principles during her two day visit to Bahrain for the Gulf Co-operation Council summit.

Bahrain has been the subject of strong international condemnation for the way it suppressed demonstrations during the Arab Spring, but Mrs May insisted dialogue was the best way forward.

The PM told Sky News: "If we look at this issue, it's important that we see there isn't an either or. While we talk about trade, we also talk about human rights issues.

"What is important, if you are going to raise these issues of human rights, if we are going to work to see that it is being addressed, is that we are engaging with these states, that we are here and we are talking to them, not that we are just sniping from the sidelines."

Mrs May also used the visit to stress the Royal Navy will play a key role in supporting the UK's presence on the world stage after Brexit as she addressed personnel from the deck of the fleet's flagship.

The Prime Minister used an address onboard HMS Ocean to praise the work done by the navy and Royal Marines in the fight against Islamic State terrorists.

In a reference to the UK's changing international role, Mrs May told the assembled personnel: "Today, as we face multiple global challenges and an increasingly uncertain and dangerous world, you are vital to protecting our nation's interests and provide a clear demonstration of the UK's enduring security commitment to the Gulf.

"And as Britain steps up to forge a new, positive, confident role for our country on the global stage, the Royal Navy will be an important part of our vision, pursuing our objectives of security on land and at sea and helping to ensure the free flow of international trade."

Flanked by two Jackal armoured vehicles from 42 Commando, the Prime Minister said: "Britain takes enormous pride in our Royal Navy, known the world over for its professionalism and expertise and for the dedication and courage of its sailors, Royal Marines and its officers."

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