x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Sheikh Abdullah and John Kerry affirm commitment to enforcing disarmament of Assad regime's chemical arsenal.

Taimur Khan

Foreign Correspondent

New York // The US secretary of state John Kerry has thanked Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the Foreign Minister, for the UAE’s support for efforts to hold Bashar Al Assad accountable for using chemical weapons in Syria, as well as its backing for peace negotiations in Geneva to end the civil war there.

During bilateral talks on Sunday, Sheikh Abdullah and Mr Kerry also affirmed the importance of Washington’s insistence on a binding, verifiable removal of Syria’s chemical weapons, a US state department official said.

Mr Kerry met officials from a number of Arab countries to discuss issues likely to be addressed by the US president Barack Obama’s speech at the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, including Syria, Egypt and the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.

Sheikh Abdullah was also updated by his US counterpart on efforts in the UN Security Council and at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague to implement the US-Russia agreement on disarming Syria, the state department official said.

“And it was discussed that it was very important … that the US threat of military action was what brought this diplomacy about,” the official said.

Russia has so far rejected US and European demands that measures, including the threat of military force, are included in a Security Council resolution on the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons.

Mr Kerry also discussed Iran with the Saudi foreign minister Saud Al Faisal, the official said. They spoke about the necessity of concrete steps to match the newly elected Iranian president Hassan Rouhani’s recent conciliatory overtures towards the West and Iran’s Arab neighbours.

The state department official said Mr Kerry reiterated to Mr Al Faisal the dual-track US policy of economic sanctions and diplomatic engagement to stop Iran from making nuclear weapons.

The US foreign secretary’s meeting with the Egyptian foreign minister, Nabil Fahmy, centred on the need for signs of progress in Egypt’s transition back to democracy after the ousting of the elected president, Mohammed Morsi, including the lifting of the state of emergency and fair civilian trials for the hundreds of detained Muslim Brotherhood members.

Mr Kerry told Mr Fahmy that members of the US Congress were pushing for more verifiable progress while it considers whether or not to cut US aid to Egypt. Although US military aid to Egypt has reportedly not been transferred since Mr Morsi was deposed, the official added that there was no discussion of cancelling the military assistance.