- Associated Press - Friday, December 22, 2017

AKROTIRI, Cyprus (AP) - British Prime Minister Theresa May praised military personnel at a U.K. air base on Cyprus for helping to beat back the Islamic State group with more than 1,600 air strikes in Iraq and Syria.

May said Friday that RAF Akrotiri is at the epicenter of Britain’s contribution to the fight against IS and that the work of military personnel there to train the forces of neighboring countries is vital to maintaining stability in the volatile region.

“It is you who take down our enemies and stand by our allies when the going gets tough,” May told around 200 men and women serving at the RAF Akrotiri, one of two sovereign bases that Britain has maintained on this east Mediterranean island since its independence from British colonial rule in 1960.

“Today, thanks in very large part to your efforts, the so-called Caliphate has been crushed and no longer holds significant territory in Iraq or Syria,” she told troops against on the tarmac with a pair of warplanes as a backdrop.

May said RAF Akrotiri also supports more than 1,450 personnel working with allies and partners in Iraq and Jordan to fight IS and prevent it’s re-emergence.

But the British prime minister said the U.K.’s security and that of other nations also depends on their work to prevent IS from finding new ungoverned areas to launch attacks.

“So it is vital that we support the stability of our partners across the Middle East,” said May. That support extends to the training of 60,000 Iraqi security forces and in the expansion of a quick-reaction force in Jordan.

She said a “global Britain” after the country’s exit from the European Union in March 2019 will continue to honor its responsibilities as a U.N. Security Council member and “play a leading role in upholding the values and rules of the international order on which we depend.”

Britain is committed to spending two percent of its annual gross domestic product on defense to fulfill its obligations as a member of Nato, said May.

“You are, quite simply, the pride of our nation and that’s how you should be treated,” she said.

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