Home NewsCommodities News Biden sends high-powered team to UAE, aiming to repair frayed ties By Reuters

Biden sends high-powered team to UAE, aiming to repair frayed ties By Reuters

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris speaks during an event with leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at the U.S.-ASEAN Special Summit in Washington, U.S., May 13, 2022.REUTERS/Elizabeth Franz/File Photo

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Humela Pamuk

ABU DHABI (Reuters) – President Joe Biden sent a strong U.S. delegation to the United Arab Emirates on Monday to express condolences following the death of its ruler, in an apparent effort to intensify efforts to repair tensions with Gulf Arab allies relation.

Washington’s desire to improve relations with Gulf monarchies has taken on greater urgency in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, underscoring the relevance of Gulf oil producers as Europe seeks to reduce its energy dependence on Russia.

Gulf states have so far refused to take sides in the Ukraine conflict. OPEC heavyweights Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have also resisted calls to boost output to help curb crude prices that are fueling global inflation.

World leaders have visited Abu Dhabi since the weekend to pay tribute to the new leader, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, on the death of his half-brother. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman traveled to the United Arab Emirates on Monday to express his condolences, state media reported.

US Vice President Kamala Harris arrived in the UAE capital, where she is expected to remain for about three hours. She led a delegation that included nearly all of Biden’s top national security aides, from the secretaries of state and defense, the director of the CIA to senior White House officials.

Senior U.S. officials said the composition of the delegation reflected Washington’s desire to demonstrate its commitment to the region.

They added that Harris will underscore the intent to strengthen links in areas ranging from security and climate to space, energy and commerce.

“This is a major charm offensive by the Biden administration to repair ties,” said Omar Taspinar, a policy expert at the Brookings Institution think tank.

The Middle East has not been a priority for the Biden administration, whose main focus has been on the China challenge, and the U.S. foreign policy agenda has been dominated by the Ukraine conflict since February.

Both the UAE and Saudi Arabia hold grudges against the Biden administration.

Biden has so far refused to deal directly with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed as the kingdom’s de facto ruler.

Emiratis are frustrated by what they see as the lack of strong U.S. support following a January missile attack on Abu Dhabi by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis.

Reuters reported that Biden did not call quickly or respond more forcefully after the attack, which upset Sheikh Mohammed.

Taspinar added: “Trying to get things back on track after the UAE was disappointed by the US without a high-level visit after the Houthi attack.”

“The seniority and size of the U.S. delegation is a very convincing signal that means a lot to Sheikh Mohammed and the Emirati leadership,” said a source familiar with Emirati thinking.

When Secretary of State Anthony Blinken met Sheikh Mohammed in Morocco in March, he pledged Washington’s commitment to the region.

In the face of Iran’s missile program and regional proxy network, Gulf states are annoyed by the decline in U.S. commitment to their security.

The UAE is simultaneously engaging with Tehran to contain tensions. The Iranian foreign minister will arrive in Abu Dhabi on Monday.

Abu Dhabi and Riyadh are also frustrated by the conditions of US arms sales. In December, the UAE said it would suspend talks to buy US-made F-35 fighter jets due to conditions related to the sale.

The UAE says the US remains a strategic partner even as it deepens ties with China and Russia.

“There is progress, (but) there is more work to be done. The UAE wants a closer and clearer relationship with the US,” the UAE source said.

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