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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 September 2018

Sheikh Mohammed discusses defence with James Mattis in Abu Dhabi

Counter-extremism and Middle East developments also on the agenda

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces welcomes James Mattis, US Secretary of Defense (WAM)
Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces welcomes James Mattis, US Secretary of Defense (WAM)

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, held talks with US Secretary of Defence James Mattis in the capital on Friday.

Sheikh Mohammed said he discussed increasing defence and military ties as well as regional and international issues with Mr Mattis, who arrived in Abu Dhabi after a visit to Afghanistan.

The Crown Prince and the Pentagon chief reviewed developments in the Middle East and their countries' co-operation and co-ordination to counter extremism and terrorism, the state news agency Wam reported.

The UAE is a key US ally in the battle against Al Qaeda in Yemen, which Washington considers the most dangerous arm of the terror group, while the US provides weapons, aerial refuelling and intelligence to the Saudi-led military coalition, in which the UAE is a key member, that is fighting Iran-backed Houthi rebels in the country. The UAE has also provided support for the US-led Nato mission in Afghanistan, where Washington is pushing for Taliban insurgents to enter peace talks.

During his visit to Kabul on Friday, Mr Mattis and the top US military officer, Gen Joseph Dunford, met President Ashraf Ghani and discussed security, parliamentary and presidential elections next month, and attempts to end corruption, the president's spokesman said.

The visit followed deadly attacks earlier in the week that underlined the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan as it prepares to hold elections.

Mr Mattis said he was hopeful about peace talks with the Taliban. "Right now, we have more indications that reconciliation is no longer just a shimmer out there, no longer just a mirage," he told reporters before his arrival in Kabul.

"It now has some framework, there's some open lines of communication."

The US has said a top State Department official held talks with Taliban representatives in Qatar earlier this year to discuss the groundwork for peace talks. The militants also observed a temporary ceasefire for Eid Al Fitr for the first time in their 17-year-insurgency.

While the Taliban remain the biggest threat to security, a local branch of ISIS has been carrying out increasingly brazen attacks, including the bombing of a wrestling centre in Kabul on Wednesday that killed at least 20 people and wounded 90 others.

Mr Mattis told the Afghan leadership that the United States was committed to stay in Afghanistan until the country was secure and stable, the president's office said.

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In Abu Dhabi, Mr Mattis' meeting with Sheikh Mohammed was also attended by Sheikh Khalid bin Mohammed; Mohammed bin Ahmed, Minister of State for Defence Affairs; Yousef Al Otaiba, UAE Ambassador to the US; Khaldoon Khalifa, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Executive Affairs Authority; Mohammed Mubarak, Under Secretary of the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince's Court; Lt Gen Isa Saif bin Ablan, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, and members of the US delegation accompanying the Pentagon chief.

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