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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 June 2018

Trump discusses Iran with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed 

US President and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince share phone call on regional developments

Donald Trump and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed discussed Iran during a phone call. Aaron Bernstein / Bloomberg News
Donald Trump and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed discussed Iran during a phone call. Aaron Bernstein / Bloomberg News

US President Donald Trump discussed in a phone call with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, ways to combat Iran's "destabilising activities".

A statement from the White House disclosed details of the phone call in which they had discussed regional developments.

"The president thanked the Crown Prince for his leadership in highlighting ways all Gulf Co-operation Council states can better counter Iranian destabilising activities and defeat terrorists and extremists," the White House said.

Sheikh Mohammed confirmed in a Tweet that the two leaders discussed the enhancement of bilateral and regional relations and international issues of common interest.

The leaders agreed on the importance of "regional co-operation and a united Gulf Cooperation Council to mitigate regional threats and ensure the region’s economic prosperity".

The phone call comes as a US delegation prepares to visit the Gulf region next week to explore ways to end Qatar's diplomatic crisis.

The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic ties with Qatar last June over allegations that it supports and harbours extremists.

The delegation will include former General Anthony Zinni and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Arabian Gulf Affairs, Tim Lenderking, who will head to Gulf capitals including Abu Dhabi, Riyadh and Doha.

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Mr Zinni, a retired General, was first dispatched by the Trump administration to the region last August to help resolve the Qatar dispute. But efforts faltered, and a new US push is now in the works to find a settlement, in hopes of gathering the GCC parties for a Camp David summit later in the Spring.

However, experts warn that differences remain and ending the crisis will require serious US guarantees.

Marcelle Wahba, president of the Arab Gulf States Institute and former US Ambassador to the UAE, told The National that resolving the Qatar dispute will not be an easy task for US officials.

“The Quartet’s [UAE, Saudi, Egypt and Bahrain] concerns about Qatar’s foreign policies go well beyond a neighbourly spat” Ms Wahba said.

“The US will need to assist in identifying the key areas for resolution and maybe play the role of guarantor to a final agreement that all the players would commit to," she said.

The White House phone call also follows warning by a US general that Iran has increased armament and support of the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

US Central Command chief General Joseph Votel said that Iran “is prolonging the civil war in Yemen, threatening Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and risking expansion of Yemen’s civil war into a regional conflict”.

On Wednesday, President Hassan Rouhani said that Iran is ready to discuss regional security issues with its Gulf Arab neighbours as long as foreign powers are kept out of any potential talks.

"We don't need foreigners to guarantee the security of our region," Mr Rouhani said in a speech broadcast on state television.

The US, UK, Germany and France condemned Iran after the United Nations found Tehran had violated the arms embargo on Yemen by failing to block supplies of missiles and drones to the Houthis.

The condemnation follows Russia’s vetoing of a UN draft resolution that would have linked Iran with the transfer of Iranian-made arms to Houthi insurgents in Yemen.

A Saudi-led Arab coalition intervened in the Yemeni war in 2015 on behalf of the internationally recognised government of President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels

Meanwhile, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, the UAE’s biggest ally, also held a phone call with the American president.

Mr Trump discussed with Prince Mohammed bin Salman ways to counter terrorism in the region.

Mr Trump made a historic visit to Saudi Arabia, last year, in which Washington and Riyadh signed a number of deals worth almost $110 billion (Dh440 bn) for the supply of US defence equipment and services to the kingdom.

US companies also announced deals or agreements with Saudi Arabia worth tens of billions of dollars during the visit.