Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 17 September 2019

Mike Pompeo announces international summit on Middle East security and Iran's threat

US secretary of state arrives in Bahrain as part of regional tour aimed at countering Tehran and extremists

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is greeted by Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa at Manama International Airport on January 11, 2019. via Reuters
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is greeted by Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa at Manama International Airport on January 11, 2019. via Reuters

The United States will host a global summit focused on the Middle East, particularly Iran, next month in Poland, according to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who arrived in Bahrain on Friday.

Mr Pompeo revealed plans for the summit in an interview with the Fox News.

He said the meeting on Februray 13 and 14 would "focus on Middle East stability and peace and freedom and security here in this region, and that includes an important element of making sure that Iran is not a destabilising influence".

Mr Pompeo's visit to Bahrain is the first stop on a tour of US Gulf allies that Washington says are crucial to confronting Iran and extremist militants in the Middle East.

"These Gulf partnerships are critical to achieving shared regional objectives - defeating ISIS , countering radical Islamic terrorism, protecting global energy supplies and rolling back Iranian aggression," a State Department spokesman said.

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In Bahrain, Mr Pompeo was scheduled to have a working lunch with King Hamad, Crown Prince Salman and Foreign Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmad Al Khalifa, according to his official programme.

Bahrain hosts the US Navy's Fifth Fleet with about 7,800 US military personnel deployed in the country, as well as a British naval base.

It is one of the closest allies of regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia and shares its hostility Iran, which it accuses of fomenting unrest on the island.

"Bahrain is a staunch supporter of countering Iran's malign efforts" in the region, the US spokesman said.

"Bahrain continues efforts to investigate and counter Iranian sanctions evasion and combat illicit maritime activity," he added.

Mr Pompeo is in the region to reassure US allies alarmed by President Donald Trump's sudden decision to withdraw US troops deployed in Syria to fight ISIS. The US-led coalition confirmed on Friday that the pullout has begun.

The secretary of state travelled to Manama from Cairo and has already visited Amman, Baghdad and the Iraqi Kurdish regional capital of Erbil.

He will also visit the other five members of the Gulf Cooperation Council - the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Saudi Arabia.

State Department officials have said Mr Pompeo hopes his trip will strengthen the GCC, which has been weakened by a diplomatic rift that has pitted Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain against Qatar for more than 18 months.

They accuse Doha of supporting terrorist groups and of advocating improved ties with Iran.

Doha, which is home to the largest US air base in the region, denies the accusations and has refused to comply with demands laid down by its fellow GCC members for the lifting of a trade and travel blockade imposed in June 2017.

The State Department has said that a "united Gulf Cooperation Council the backbone for regional peace, prosperity, security and stability" and key to countering Iran.

It said Mr Pompeo would also work with regional leaders to advance a proposed Middle East Strategic Alliance, or Mesa, a Nato-style security pact.

During his talks in with Gulf states, Mr Pompeo is also expected to discuss the conflict in Yemen where a Saudi-led coalition has been fighting Iran-backed rebels since March 2015.

Updated: January 11, 2019 04:25 PM

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