x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Leaders highlight agreement on key political and religious issues

UAE and US leaders have reaffirm their commitment to their "enduring partnership", which they said had contributed to stability in the Middle East.

UAE and US leaders have reaffirmed their commitment to their "enduring partnership", which they said had contributed to stability in the Middle East. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, and the outgoing US president, George W Bush, issued a joint statement after meeting at the US presidential retreat at Camp David.

The significance of the meeting was the "great realisation that the UAE is a model of tolerance and prosperity in the Middle East," said Danny Sebright, the president of the US-UAE Business Council in Washington, DC. It was Sheikh Mohammed's second Camp David visit in five months. Mr Bush visited the UAE in January, stopping in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. In their statement, the two leaders highlighted their agreement on several issues, including advancing political and religious moderation, and fighting extremism.

Both countries, the statement noted, "continue to work together to undercut the violent ideology used to justify extremism and prevent terrorist attacks against our people and common interests, and the terrorist financing that supports terrorist organisations". On regional affairs, they said the countries "collaborate as like-minded partners... such as the Arab-Israeli peace process, ensuring peace and stability in Lebanon, and supporting Iraq's increasing engagement with its neighbours.

"The US and UAE also work closely to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan, and to strengthen the economy of Pakistan." The leaders also outlined areas of security co-operation, including nuclear non-proliferation, export controls, as well as combating human trafficking and the financing of illicit activities. The US and the UAE maintain a close defence relationship. In 1994, they signed a defence pact under which the US military may use the UAE's major port and airport facilities.

The UAE is also part of the Gulf Security Dialogue, an initiative aimed at improving security and defence co-operation between GCC countries and the US. Most recently, the US government approved a deal to supply the UAE with missile defence technology. America is already the UAE's top weapons supplier. Relations hit a low in 2006, when members of the US Congress attempted to prevent the UAE-based DP World from assuming control of some shipping facilities at several major US ports.

Since then, authorities and private businesses in both countries have tried to improve the UAE's image by reaching out to key constituencies in the US. Two weeks ago, the Minister of Trade, Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, delivered a keynote address to the National US-Arab Chamber of Commerce, and the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr Mohammed Anwar Gargash, is due to speak at the Middle East Institute's annual conference on Thursday in Washington, DC.

Monday's joint statement also mentioned the importance of trade and investment in the relationship. "The UAE imports over US$12 billion worth of US goods, making it the largest destination for US products in the broader Middle East region except for Israel," said Mr Sebright, the US-UAE Business Council president. "The investment by the UAE in the US has grown significantly, including direct investment on the ground in US companies and investment in our financial firms and institutions, working with the US to help resolve the financial crisis."

The statement, released during a financial crisis expected to hit the US hard, also welcomed the work of the International Working Group of Sovereign Wealth Funds, which in October presented two dozen voluntary principles to govern the actions of sovereign wealth funds. In recent months, the cash-rich nations of the GCC have been asked by western nations to contribute to the International Monetary Fund to soften the impact of the financial crisis.

ehokayem@thenational.ae