The US Senate foreign relations committee on Wednesday hosted its nomination hearing for Martina Strong as Washington's ambassador to the UAE, where it heard that its relationship with the Emirates is "critical" to national security.
A seasoned diplomat, Ms Strong is currently charge d’affaires to the US mission in Saudi Arabia. She speaks fluent Arabic, Czech, Polish, French, German, Russian and Bosnian.
She has been the deputy chief of mission and charge d’affaires at the US embassy in Sofia, Bulgaria, and as the minister counsellor for political and political-military affairs at the embassy in Iraq.
Ms Strong is expected to enter the ambassador role at a particularly intricate moment for relations between the UAE and its ally in Washington.
In his 2022 end-of-year statement, the UAE's ambassador to Washington, Yousef Al Otaiba, said the US was the UAE's “most important partner" and the countries' relationship was "more crucial than ever”.
That sentiment was clear in the Senate, with Ms Strong facing more questions than the five nominees sharing the confirmation hearing with her.
The nations recently increased security co-ordination, pledging in January to expand the Abraham Accords and use enhanced regional co-operation with Israel to boost food and water security, clean energy, emerging technology and trade relations.
In her opening remarks on Wednesday, Ms Strong told the committee that Washington's relationship with the UAE "is critical to US national security".
"Our security ties with the UAE, a capable and interoperable partner, have been central to our fight against terrorism and to countering Iran's malign activities across the region," she said.
Ms Strong said the coming Cop28 conference in the UAE is "another key opportunity to deepen our collaboration".
Much of the hearing was dedicated to Washington's concern about China's growing influence in the region.
Ms Strong said that in her role, "having a very robust, diplomatic discourse on this topic is going to be critical in addressing this".
"While we [the US and UAE] do not agree on all issues, our frank and constructive diplomatic engagement has helped us deepen and modernise this vital bilateral partnership."
The Senate is expected to confirm Ms Strong's nomination after a final hearing and general vote.