x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Top Obama adviser to meet Sheikh Mohammed today

US officials say UAE is a key partner during a time of marked Middle East unrest.

DUBAI // The US national security adviser is due to meet with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, today to discuss "regional issues," the White House says.

The agenda is expected to include aspects of the political unrest that has worried Gulf nations and created tensions in the region.

The trip by Tom Donilon comes as part of his three-day visit to the UAE and Saudi Arabia, and amid several high-level encounters between American and Gulf officials.

"The national security adviser's visit underscores the importance of our relationship with these two key partners," the White House said in a statement.

Gulf leaders have witnessed popular uprisings across the region in recent months.

Closest to home are the situations in Bahrain and Yemen. Last month in Bahrain, the UAE formed part of a Saudi-led GCC force called into the kingdom to protect infrastructure as protests continued.The US Navy's Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain.

In Yemen, President Ali Abdullah Saleh yesterday rejected a GCC call for him to step down and pave the way for a peaceful transition to new government.

He faces frequent civilian protests by tens of thousands of Yemenis across the country, and has met the demonstrations with deadly force on several occasions.

Also likely to be on the agenda for today's meeting is the fighting in Libya between forces supporting Colonel Muammar Qaddafi and rebel elements. The UAE has dispatched 12 fighter jets and Qatar sent two warplanes and two military transport planes to help enforce a UN no-fly zone over Libya.

Gulf governments are also concerned about the transitions to new governments in Egypt and Tunisia, and violent clashes between protesters and government forces in both Jordan and Syria.

The US defence secretary, Robert Gates, visited Abu Dhabi at the weekend and met with Sheikh Mohammed about regional unrest, defence co-operation and Iran, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said.

It was Mr Gates's third visit to the UAE in less than a year.

On Thursday the US president, Barack Obama is scheduled to meet the ruler of Qatar, Sheikh Hamid bin Khalifa Al Thani, at the White House.