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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 4 March 2021

Middle East leaders look forward to stronger ties with US under Joe Biden

The 46th US president faces several challenges in the region after taking office on Wednesday

Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th US president on January 20, 2021, at the US Capitol in Washington. AFP
Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th US president on January 20, 2021, at the US Capitol in Washington. AFP

Leaders in the Middle East called for stronger ties and closer co-operation with the United States in messages of congratulations to Joe Biden after he was sworn in as the country's 46th president on Wednesday.

Mr Biden pledged to start a broad outreach to American allies around the world after the America First policy adopted by his predecessor Donald Trump.

Among the top issues facing him in the Middle East are the escalation in tensions with Iran under Mr Trump, and the civil wars in Yemen and Syria.

On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a plank of Middle East policy in successive US administrations, Mr Biden faces a changed landscape after the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco signed normalisation agreements with Israel last year.

Joe Biden is yet to call Benjamin Netanyahu since taking office. Reuters
Then US vice president Joe Biden seen with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington in 2010. File photo / Reuters

Bahrain

Crown Prince and Prime Minister Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa sent a cable of congratulations to Mr Biden on his inauguration, wishing him good health, happiness and success in leading the American people to further progress and prosperity.

Prince Salman highlighted the long-standing ties and close partnership spanning 120 years between Bahrain and the US, supported by strong friendship and mutual respect, the Bahrain News Agency reported.

He said he looked forward to consolidating the strategic relationship and bolstering co-operation and co-ordination between the two allies.

Bahrain hosts the US Navy's Fifth Fleet and has taken part in air strikes in Syria as part of the US-led coalition against ISIS.

The US naval presence in the Arabian Gulf reinforces its allies in the region and safeguards the movement of oil through the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow waterway at the mouth of the Gulf through which about 40 per cent of the world's oil shipments pass.

UAE

Leaders of the United Arab Emirates emphasised not only the country's long standing, deep ties to the United States, but also the warm personal relationship with President Biden, developed over many years. President Sheikh Khalifa sent a message of support to his American counterpart, stating that the two countries would continue to work side by side on key issues such as global health, climate change and tackling violent extremism. The message was echoed by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, who called for the nations to work closely in the future.

Qatar

The emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim wished Mr Biden success in his duties and further growth in relations and strategic co-operation between the two countries.

GCC

The Secretary General of the Gulf Co-operation Council, Nayef Al Hajraf congratulated Mr Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on taking office while expressing hopes for strengthening the strategic partnership between the six-member bloc and the US.

Jordan

Jordan's King Abdullah II welcomed Mr Biden to the world stage.

"Warmest congratulations to [Joe Biden] on his inauguration today. We highly value our strategic partnership and enduring friendship with the United States, and we look forward to working with you in pursuit of global peace and prosperity," the monarch said on Twitter.

Israel

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu raised the threat posed by Iran and the policy of building Arab-Israeli ties pursued by Mr Trump in his message to the new president.

"President Biden, you and I have had a warm personal friendship going back many decades. I look forward to working with you to further strengthen the US-Israel alliance, to continue expanding peace between Israel and the Arab world and to confront common challenges, chief among them the threat posed by Iran," Mr Netanyahu said in a video statement.

Palestinian Territories

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who will be seeking another term in elections planned for this year, assured Mr Biden of his willingness to continue with the peace process.

"We look forward to working together for peace and stability in the region and the world," Mr Abbas said in a letter to Mr Biden, the official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported.

Mr Abbas "affirmed his readiness for 'a comprehensive and just peace process that would achieve the aspirations of the Palestinian people in freedom and independence", Wafa said.

The Palestinian Authority broke political ties with the US in December 2017 after Mr Trump recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Iran

Iran's president, Hassan Rouhani, called on Mr Biden to return to the 2015 nuclear deal and lift US sanctions on Iran, overturning a key part of Mr Trump's foreign policy programme.

"The ball is in the US court now. If Washington returns to Iran's 2015 nuclear deal, we will also fully respect our commitments under the pact," Mr Rouhani told a televised Cabinet meeting.

He also launched a scathing attack on the outgoing president. A "tyrant's era came to an end and today is the final day of his ominous reign" Mr Rouhani said of Mr Trump's departure.

Mr Biden said he plans to return to the nuclear deal with Iran, which was signed when he was Barack Obama's vice president. Mr Biden's national security aides suggested they would like further negotiations on Iran's ballistic missile capabilities.

Sudan

Sudan's Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok sent his congratulations to the new US leader. Until recently, Sudan was sanctioned by the US as a state sponsor of terrorism.

But, since autocrat Omar Al Bashir was removed by the military amid mass street protests in 2019 and the country has taken steps to transition to democracy, the US has worked to remove them from the listing and Khartoum has agreed compensation for victims and families of past terror attacks that they were involved in.

Updated: January 21, 2021 07:11 PM

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