Blinken meets with UAE leader in Morocco to cement ties


RABAT, March 29 (Reuters) – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is due to meet the de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates in Morocco on Tuesday to settle disagreements with Washington’s traditional Gulf allies over oil, Iran and the Ukraine crisis .

The meeting with Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, will be his most important during a regional tour that, unusually for a foreign minister, did not include stops in Gulf monarchies or talks with Saudi officials.

Washington’s Arab allies fret over what they see as a dwindling US commitment to security in their region amid Iranian involvement in Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, which has pushed them into common cause with former nemesis Israel.

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Blinken attended a summit over the weekend between Israel and Arab countries with which it has agreed peace, including the United Arab Emirates and Morocco, but he did not meet senior Saudis.

Although the United States is long-term focused on the strategic challenge of growing Chinese influence and its attention is now on the Ukraine crisis, very high crude prices have underscored the continued importance of Gulf oil producers.

Blinken is expected to emphasize the importance of both the UAE and Saudi Arabia in his talks with Sheikh Mohammed, and to discuss Iran, Yemen, global energy markets and the UAE’s rapprochement with Syria, US officials said.

In return, he is trying to overcome Gulf resistance to a US demand to increase oil production in order to tame galloping crude prices that have exacerbated high inflation rates around the world.

“The United States is a very important partner for all of us and we are very proud of the relationship. I think what we need is pragmatism. We have to deal with the goal of energy and what we are asking is not to do that, tell us ‘do this’ or ‘do that’,” UAE Energy Minister Suhail al-Mazrouei said. on Tuesday.


Meanwhile, Washington wants its Arab allies to take a stronger stance on Russia, by coordinating with the United States at the United Nations, joining Western sanctions, or even sending security aid to Ukraine.

The United Arab Emirates abstained in a UN Security Council vote on Ukraine last month, and Morocco did not appear to vote at the General Assembly. The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia both have increasingly important energy ties with Russia.

“Energy is making a comeback as an important part of many discussions in the Middle East and indeed around the world. What people thought was the death of fossil fuels is a little premature in my opinion,” senior Emirati official Anwar Gargash said on Tuesday.

Gulf countries have for years been frustrated by what they see as US inaction in addressing Iran’s role in the region, but their concerns have grown since Joe Biden became president.

Concerned about the impact of a possible new nuclear deal with Iran, they are angered that Washington has ended its support for their war in Yemen, imposed new terms on arms sales to the Gulf states and criticized their human rights record.

Blinken is expected to reassure Sheikh Mohammed on Washington’s commitment to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon amid a spate of rocket attacks by the Tehran-backed Houthi group in Yemen.

Both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, concerned that Washington’s quest for an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program will not address missile development or the role of its regional proxies, have resorted to engaging directly with Tehran .

“We need to turn the page…reach out to different friends, of course, but also to opponents,” said Gargash, speaking at the world government summit in Dubai.

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Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; additional reporting from Ghaida Ghantous, Maha El Dahan, Riham Alkousaa and Yousef Saba; writing by Angus McDowall; Adaptation by Grant McCool and Ed Osmond

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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