In a recent meeting between UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps and US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, the focus was on preventing regional escalation in the Middle East. The closed-doors discussion covered various aspects of US-UK cooperation, particularly addressing Iranian-backed Houthi attacks on merchant and naval vessels transiting the Red Sea.

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The UK’s Ministry of Defense revealed that the Houthis have conducted over 30 attacks on international shipping since mid-November, raising concerns about maritime security in the region.

Key takeaways from the meeting include:

1. Counteraction against Houthi Attacks: Both officials discussed ongoing efforts to defend against Iranian-backed Houthi attacks, emphasizing the need for coordinated measures to ensure the safety of shipping in the Red Sea.

2. Support for Israel: Shapps and Sullivan reviewed their joint support for Israel as it defends itself against Hamas. The discussion also encompassed addressing the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza, with a focus on increasing deliveries of life-saving humanitarian aid.

3. UNRWA Funding Withdrawal: The recent withdrawal of funding from multiple countries, including the US and UK, for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) was acknowledged. This decision followed reports linking staff members to attacks in Hamas on October 7.

4. Strategic Diplomacy: The meeting highlighted the importance of strategic diplomacy in addressing regional challenges, with a particular emphasis on the Middle East. The discussions aimed to strengthen the collaboration between the US and the UK in navigating complex geopolitical issues.

5. Upcoming Talks with China: The White House announced that the US and China will hold counter-narcotics talks in Beijing, following Sullivan’s meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Bangkok. The talks are part of broader efforts to stabilize relations between the two nations.

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The meeting underscored the significance of international cooperation in addressing multifaceted challenges in the Middle East and beyond, reflecting the ongoing complexities of global geopolitics.