RIYADH: Arab countries are in talks with the United States for a new security agreement to protect the Middle East from “external aggression”, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al Jubeir said on Sunday.
“The aim is to achieve security arrangements in the Middle East that can protect the region from external aggression... and strengthen relations between the United States and the countries of the region,” Jubeir said.
The Saudi minister was talking at a news conference at the end of a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit in Riyadh.
Asked about reports of talks on the creation of an Arab-American military alliance against Iran, he said: “Talks are continuing between the United States and the Gulf states around this question and ideas are being drawn up.”
“It’s a work in progress and the two parties want to see it happen,” said Jubeir, adding that the alliance would include Egypt and be called the Middle East Strategic Alliance, or MESA.
Media reports have indicated in recent months that an Arab-American anti-Iranian alliance could emerge, and that it would be similar to Nato.
Qatar boycotts summit
Bahrain and Qatar traded barbs over the Qatari emir’s decision not to attend the GCC summit, an absence that suggests a rift between Doha and three Gulf Arab states is unlikely to be resolved soon.
Qatar sent its state minister for foreign affairs to the annual one-day summit, which is overshadowed by the economic and diplomatic boycott of Doha since mid-2017 by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt over allegations that Doha supports terrorism, which Qatar denies.
Take a look: Qatar crisis creates ‘new’ Gulf with no winners
“Qatar’s emir should have accepted the fair demands (of the boycotting states) and attended the summit,” Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa said in a tweet.
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman opened the gathering, urging member states Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, the UAE and Qatar to maintain a united front against Iran and terrorism.
“This requires all of us to maintain our countries’ gains and to work with our partners to preserve security and stability in the region and the world,” he said in a speech.
Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber al-Sabah, who has tried unsuccessfully to mediate the Qatar row, then called for an end to media campaigns that he said threatened regional unity.
Doha last week abruptly announced it was exiting the oil exporters’ group Opec after 57 years to focus on gas, in an apparent swipe at the bloc’s de facto leader Saudi Arabia. .
Saudi Arabia has resisted US pressure to restore ties with Doha following Khashoggi’s murder, an act that drew condemnation and scrutiny of Riyadh’s assertive regional policies.
A US State Department official on Sunday urged Gulf states to mend fences to confront Iran and help enable a proposed new Middle East security alliance that would include the Gulf bloc, Egypt and Jordan.
“We’d like to see that unity restored, not on our terms, but on terms of the countries that are involved,” Timothy Lenderking, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Arabian Gulf Affairs, told reporters at a security forum in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi.
Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2018