Crown Prince holds talks with U.S. Defense Secretary, GCC Defense Ministers

May 14, 2014

Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz received the Ministers of Defense participating in the First Consultative Meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)’s Joint Defense Council at the Conference Palace in Jeddah this morning. The participants included U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel; Kuwaiti Minister of Defense Lt. Gen. Khalid Al-Jarrah Al-Sabah; Bahraini Minister of State for Defense Affairs Lt. Gen. Mohammed bin Abdullah Al-Khalifa; Omani Minister Responsible for Defense Affairs Badr bin Saud bin Hareb Al-Busaidi; Qatari Minister of State for Defense Affairs Maj. Gen. Hamad bin Ali Al-Attiyah; and UAE Undersecretary of the Ministry of Defense Mohammed bin Ahmed Al-Bawardi.

The audience was attended by Deputy Defense Minister Prince Salman bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz; Minister of State Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz; Saudi Ambassador to the United States Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir; and GCC Secretary General Dr. Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani.

Afterwards, Crown Prince Salman opened the session with an address. He noted that the purpose of the meeting is to share viewpoints on ways to ensure U.S.-GCC cooperation in a way that serves the interests and aspirations of all parties and contributes to regional security and world peace. “We are pleased today with the participation of His Excellency Chuck Hagel, the U.S. Secretary of Defense, whose country’s administration is tied with our countries by historical and strategic relations that contributed to the enhancement of the security of the Gulf and stability of the region, hoping that this cooperation continues to the satisfaction of our joint interests,” he said.

The Crown Prince warned of the increasing threats to the region’s security that necessitate developing coordinated policies and defense plans. He cited several serious challenges, including the political crises afflicting many Arab states, the race to obtain weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), the interference of some countries into the internal affairs of GCC states, and the growing phenomenon of terrorism. He stated, “The security challenges, whether they are the result of internal crises or illegal designs from some countries in the region, will cast their repercussions, not only on the GCC countries but also on the regional and international security and peace, making the security of the Gulf and its countries a joint responsibility between the GCC countries and the world community, particularly the United States given the economic and security ties between the U.S. and the GCC member states, as well as the constant commitment of the United States to keep the security and stability of the region.”

The Crown Prince urged all parties to take decisive and courageous positions to help the struggling nations of the region. New circumstances require forging joint security policies, he said, urging an upgrade in the level of coordination and cooperation between the defense sectors of the GCC states and the United States and other friendly countries. Finally, the Crown Prince advised the United States to take into consideration the rising security and political threats facing the Gulf, including the plans of some countries to change the regional balance of powers at the expense of the GCC states.

Next, Secretary of Defense Hagel delivered a speech in which he expressed hope for more constant U.S.-GCC defense coordination and cooperation to protect the security of the vital Gulf region. He reiterated the United States’ unshakeable commitment to the security and stability of the GCC states. Regarding Iran’s nuclear program, Hagel insisted that negotiations would not involve, under any circumstances, the bartering of regional security in exchange for Iranian concessions. The United States will always work towards ensuring that Iran does not possess a nuclear weapon and that it will live up to any future agreements in that regard, he said.

During his address, Secretary General Al-Zayani called for strengthening the ties of friendship and cooperation between the GCC and the United States. He characterized the U.S. as an important strategic ally that has played a fundamental role in maintaining regional security for decades. Al-Zayani stressed that the Iranian nuclear program represents the most worrying challenge facing the Gulf countries and the region in general. He stated, “GCC member states have welcomed the interim agreement that has been reached between [the P5 +1] and Iran on November 24, 2013, as an important step to put an end to the Iranian endeavor heading towards the military use of nuclear energy, and therefore it is important that the Iranian leadership shall be serious about fulfilling its international obligations in this regard, so as to enhance the confidence of the international community and dispel concerns about its nuclear program.”

After the conclusion of the speeches, the participants held a closed session and concluded the meeting.

Speaking after the closing session, Al-Zayani described the meeting as fruitful, confirming that the two sides discussed the consolidation of defense cooperation. He praised the statements made by Hagel, in which the Defense Secretary confirmed the United States’ enduring commitment to safeguarding regional security.

In his own press statement, Hagel highlighted the historical relations between the United States and the Gulf states and confirmed that the U.S. is eager to continue those relations, particularly in the field of defense. He noted that the two sides face the same regional security challenges and that they require strengthening cooperation. Describing the consultations, Hagel said that the participants agreed on both the need to prohibit Iran from developing nuclear weapons and the importance of assisting the Syrian opposition. He noted that a follow-up meeting will be held in Washington before the end of the year. Hagel concluded by reiterating the United States’ intention to cooperate militarily with its Middle Eastern allies, stating, “Thus we still commit to this region and its security and stability.”

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