x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Sheikh Mohammed in White House talks

Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi meets US vice president in advance of nuclear summit attended by 47 countries.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and the US vice president, Joe Biden, at the White House yesterday.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and the US vice president, Joe Biden, at the White House yesterday.

WASHINGTON // Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, held a meeting yesterday with the US vice president Joe Biden at the White House in advance of a major nuclear summit. The two leaders discussed a wide range of regional issues, including Iran's nuclear programme, Iraq and the Middle East peace process. They also discussed bilateral co-operation on economic, diplomatic and security issues.

In a statement after the meeting, Sheikh Mohammed commended the "friendly relations and constructive co-operation" between the two countries. He said the UAE was proud of its relationship with the US and is keen to develop and strengthen it at all levels. The White House said in a statement that Mr Biden thanked the Crown Prince for the UAE's significant contributions in Afghanistan and that both sides pledged to continue to support stability and reform in Yemen.

Sheikh Mohammed is among 47 leaders and representatives from across the world who are visiting the US capital for the summit, which was called for by Barack Obama last year to discuss ways to keep nuclear materials out of the hands of terrorists. Later in the day, Sheikh Mohammed was scheduled to attend a welcoming ceremony, at which Mr Obama was to individually greet each of the delegations, and a working dinner to focus on the threat posed by nuclear terrorism.

Mr Obama has called nuclear terrorism the "single biggest threat to US security", and has asked allies to help to lock down all the world's vulnerable nuclear material within four years. On Sunday, he said al Qa'eda and other groups were actively seeking nuclear materials such as separated plutonium and highly enriched uranium, which can be used in nuclear explosives. "This is something that could change the security landscape of this country and around the world for years to come," he said.

The summit - the largest assembly of world leaders hosted by a US president since the 1945 San Francisco conference to establish the United Nations- has brought a flurry of diplomatic activity to Washington and a series of high-level bilateral meetings between Mr Obama and his counterparts. He had separate meetings on Sunday with leaders from nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan, and also with leaders from South Africa and Kazakhstan, which gave up their nuclear programmes.

He continued to meet privately with leaders yesterday, hosting King Abdullah of Jordan, Prime Minister Mohammed Najib Abdul Razak of Malaysia, President Viktor Yanukovich of Ukraine, President Serzh Sargsian of Armenia, and President Hu Jintao of China. In his meeting with Mr Hu, Mr Obama was expected to discuss the possibility of a fourth round of United Nations sanctions against Iran. Talks on Iran are not on the official agenda, but have figured prominently in closed-door meetings. China and Russia, two permanent members of the UN Security Council that have extensive economic ties to the Islamic republic, have resisted further sanctions, but there are signs that may be changing.

Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, said last week that he supported limited sanctions, though he stressed that any sanctions supported by Russia would have to be targeted so as not to disproportionately affect the Iranian people. In an interview yesterday on ABC's Good Morning America, Mr Medvedev reiterated his support for limited sanctions, but rejected the idea of imposing sanctions on Iran's petroleum industry, as some US legislators have advocated. "I don't think on that topic we have a chance to achieve a consolidated opinion of the global community," Mr Medvedev said.

Summit meetings were scheduled to continue today, with leaders focusing on unilateral steps they can take to secure nuclear material and prevent nuclear smuggling within their territory. US officials said they hope countries would follow the lead of Chile, which announced last week that it had shipped the last of its highly enriched uranium to the United States for safekeeping. Gary Samore, Mr Obama's senior adviser on nuclear issues, told reporters last week that he expected other countries to announce similar efforts at the meeting. "There will be a number of national actions that countries will announce in the context of the summit," he said.

The UAE announced a Dh150bn atomic energy programme in April 2008. It has been held up as an example for regional nations that wish to embark on peaceful nuclear energy programmes and the Government says it is committed to the highest standards of non-proliferation, safety and security and will work directly with the International Atomic Energy Agency. The summit was expected to conclude with a joint statement by all attendees recognising nuclear terrorism as a threat and endorsing Mr Obama's effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials from terrorists or criminal groups.

Thirty-eight countries were represented by their heads of state, while nine other countries sent vice presidents or foreign and defence ministers. Parts of the Washington metro area were virtually locked down, with dump trucks blocking streets and thousands of police and uniformed military personnel manning barricades. The well-attended summit is a boost for Mr Obama, who has made his ambitious nuclear agenda a focal point of his foreign policy.

Last week, he signed an arms reduction treaty with Russia under which both sides agreed to reduce the number of deployed strategic warheads by 30 per cent. He also has pledged that the United States will refrain from nuclear tests and not use nuclear weapons against countries that do not have them, carving out exceptions for Iran and North Korea because of violations of international non-proliferation safeguards.


sstanek@thenational.ae