Pompeo discusses Libyan conflict, Iran with UAE counterpart


Dubai (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo discussed the Libyan conflict and countering Iranian regional influence with his Emirati counterpart during a brief visit to the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday.

The visit followed a U.S. brokered-accord this month, which saw the UAE become just the third Arab state to agree to establish full diplomatic ties with Israel.

Pompeo, who this week also visited Jerusalem, Sudan and Bahrain, sought to build on the momentum of the agreement for regional peace, he said in a tweet after arriving in the UAE.

Pompeo and UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan spoke about support for “de-escalation and a lasting ceasefire in Libya, Gulf unity and countering Iran’s malign influence in the region,” the state department said.

The United States, UAE and Israel see Iran as the main threat to the Middle East, though the UAE has said forging diplomatic ties with Israel was not directed at Tehran.

Top UAE and Israeli defence officials pledged defence cooperation this week, but this came amid Israeli dissent at the prospect that the deal could grant the Gulf power access to advanced weaponry previously denied to it, such as F-35 stealth fighter jets.

A senior U.S. State Department official said on Wednesday talks between Israel and the UAE were continuing and there was no backtracking.

UAE’s state news agency WAM on Wednesday cited Morgan Ortagus, spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department, saying there were “incredibly positive conversations going on” between the United States, Israel and UAE with regard to selling F-35 warplanes to the Gulf country.

The UAE, along with Russia and Egypt, supports the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) of Khalifa Haftar, which is fighting Libya’s internationally recognised government for control of the war-torn North African state.

The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain cut ties with fellow U.S. ally Qatar in mid-2017, over accusations Doha supports Islamic militant groups. Qatar denies the charges and says the bloc is attempting to infringe its sovereignty.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with Bahrain Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa during his visit to Manama, Bahrain, August 26, 2020.

Washington, which wants a united Gulf Arab front against Iran, has tried to mediate an end to the dispute.

UAE National Security Advisor Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed al-Nahyan also attended the meeting in Abu Dhabi, the State Department said.

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