Britain, Malta sign deal covering defense, other issues
VALLETTA (Reuters) - Britain and its former Mediterranean colony Malta signed a wide-ranging cooperation agreement on Friday covering areas including security and defence, migration, education, health and trade.
The agreement was signed during a short visit to the island by British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, who met Foreign Minister Ian Borg.
Malta gained independence from Britain in 1964 and the two countries have traditionally enjoyed a close friendship. They were allies in areas such as taxation policy in the European Union before Britain left the bloc.
No details of the Bilateral Cooperation Framework Agreement were given, but Britain has over the years trained officers of the Maltese armed forces in its military academies. It has also awarded scholarships to Maltese students and provided specialised medical care to Maltese patients.
Earlier this week, Britain also signed an export and investment partnership with Italy, its first with a EU member since it left the bloc, and a joint statement of intent on bilateral defence cooperation.
Britain and Malta have worked together on migration. Malta is on the main migration route across the Mediterranean from Libya to Europe, with many migrants then attempting to carry on to the UK.
"We want to prevent people traffickers from harvesting money from some of the most desperate people in the world," Cleverly told media.
He said that the UK supported Maltese initiatives in the United Nations and within the Commonwealth in the development of small island states.
Cleverly said the two sides had also discussed Ukraine and relations between the UK and the EU. He praised Malta, as current president of the UN Security Council, for planning to organise an event to mark Russia's Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.
Cleverly also laid flowers at a makeshift memorial to murdered anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia opposite the law courts in Valletta.
Caruana Galizia was killed by a car bomb in 2017. Two brothers were sentenced to 40 years in prison in October after admitting her murder. Malta government officials have so far not made any official visit to the memorial.
(Reporting by Christopher Scicluna; Editing by Nick Macfie)