US Defense Secretary Discussed Strategic Relations with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince

As part of his Middle East tour, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin held talks on Sunday with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, which took place at the Al-Shati Palace in Abu Dhabi.

In addition to the international and regional issues of common concern, Secretary Austin and Sheikh Bin Zayed discussed the existing UAE-US strategic relations at various levels, especially in defense and military affairs, at the meeting that was also attended by Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

Secretary Austin arrived in Bahrain earlier on Saturday, where he was to meet with a number of Middle Eastern officials, among which were the Saudi, Egyptian and Libyan foreign ministers, at the Manama Dialogue forum Austin addressed before heading to UAE – the highest-level US administration official yet to speak before a public audience in the Middle East.

Also attending the forum were Brett McGurk, White House Middle East coordinator, and Iran envoy Rob Malley, that arrived in the region last week.

This is Secretary Austin’s second trip to the Gulf region in just over two months in a time when the US is trying hard to allay the concerns of its Gulf allies’ about Washington’s retrenchment from the region and is part of a more extensive diplomatic blitz by US officials ahead of the planned return to indirect negotiations over JCPA with Iran.

Washington’s efforts are aimed at reassuring Middle East allies that American troops are not leaving Iraq or Syria and emphasizing US military is retaining its major bases in the Gulf – the US Naval Forces Central Command and US Air Forces Central Command- Austin also visited.

US is concerned that its Arab allies could be encouraged to explore defense partnerships with US adversaries Russia and China in the wake of Washington’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, the removal of the air defense systems Patriot last year as well as the recent debates over reducing the deployments of carrier strike group in the Persian Gulf.

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