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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

Mike Pompeo heads talks to counter 'malign' Iran

UN General Assembly 2018: Bahrain foreign minister tells The National new information on Iran plot will be made public in a “few days”

The first summit of the Middle East Strategic Alliance is tentatively planned for January (AP)
The first summit of the Middle East Strategic Alliance is tentatively planned for January (AP)

Countering Iranian influence and a potential January summit to launch the Middle East Strategic Alliance (Mesa) were the key talking points as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hosted the GCC, Egyptian and Jordanian foreign ministers on Friday.

For over an hour Mr Pompeo huddled with the GCC+2 officials at the Palace hotel in New York, only a few blocks from the ongoing United Nations General Assembly meetings. The US State Department said the meeting focused on the "importance of defeating ISIS and other terrorist groups, bringing peace and stability to Syria and Yemen, ensuring a thriving and inclusive Iraq, and stopping Iran’s malign activity in the region.”

The statement said all the “participants agreed on the need to confront threats from Iran directed at the region and the United States.” It also made first the official mention of “establishing Middle East Strategic Alliance, anchored by a united GCC, to advance prosperity, security, and stability in the region.”

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, described the talks as “very good” and a “great meeting.”

Bahrain’s foreign minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa said the discussions “emphasised the depth of relations between the US and the region, and ways to boost stability and security of [Washington’s] allies.”

“We are in the early stages of discussions, and we agreed on continuing them” Sheikh Khalid said. He added that the meeting did not discuss the Qatar crisis, and it was more about “big strategic issues” while singling out the Iran threat. “We discussed Iranian threats and we have a clear vision about it”

Asked by The National about a meeting in January to launch Mesa, Bahrain’s chief diplomat said “everything is open…we are positive and everything is moving in the right direction.”

“We have emphasised commitment to each other and US is an ally that can be counted on.”

On the potential of revealing new information reportedly about an Iranian plot in Bahrain, Sheikh Khalid told The National, “we have revealed a lot about what Iran is doing in Bahrain, and we will have a lot about what Iran is doing in Bahrain exhibited in Washington DC in few days.”

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Saudi and Jordanian foreign ministers Adel Al Jubeir and Ayman Safadi did not comment to reporters on their way out of the meeting.

Also in attendance were the ambassadors to Washington, UAE’s Yousef Al Otaiba, Saudi’s Khalid bin Salman, Bahrain’s Abdullah bin Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa, and Jordan’s Dina Kawar.

On Thursday, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Arabian Gulf Affairs Tim Lenderking told The National that Mesa would include the US, Gulf Cooperation Council members – Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman – and both Egypt and Jordan. The alliance will be based on a security, economic and political agreement, and the US is hoping to at least bring an agreement on its concept by January.