Trump reaches out to GCC leaders

Sunday 05/02/2017
Trump (L) gives a thumbs up as he speaks on phone to Saudi King

London - Gulf Cooperation Coun­cil (GCC) heavyweights Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have agreed to support US President Donald Trump’s pro­posal for the establishment of safe zones in war-torn Syria and Yemen.
In an hour-long telephone con­versation on January 29th, Trump and Saudi King Salman bin Ab­dulaziz Al Saud discussed issues such as the fight against terrorism and the conflicts in Syria and Yem­en.
A White House statement said the two leaders reaffirmed the his­torical friendship and strategic partnership of the two countries and agreed on the importance of “strengthening joint efforts” in the fight against terrorism.
The statement said that Trump “requested and the king agreed to support safe zones in Syria and Yemen, as well as supporting other ideas to help the many refugees who are displaced by the on-going conflicts”. Questions over which military would enforce the safe zones, which countries will provide ground forces and finance the en­deavour remained unanswered.
The Washington Post reported that in a speech on immigration in August, Trump said wealthy Gulf countries would fund the safe zones. “We’re not gonna put up money. We’re gonna lead it and we’ll do a great a job but we’re gon­na get the Gulf states to put up the money,” Trump said in Phoenix.
Trump also brought up the safe-zone proposal with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, who pledged to support the initiative. Prince Mo­hammed and Trump also said they would support joint efforts to coun­ter extremism, violence and terror­ist groups.
”The UAE is looking forward to overcome this stage of chaos and instability in the region through joint cooperation and efforts that serve mutual interests, achieve peace and stability and restore se­curity,” Prince Mohammed said.
The official Saudi statement stressed that Trump and King Sal­man agreed on “confronting those who seek to undermine security and stability in the region and inter­fere in the internal affairs of other states”, a pointed reference to Iran.
The White House statement said that the Saudi monarch and the US president agreed on the importance of “rigorously enforcing” the nucle­ar deal with Iran “and of addressing Iran’s destabilising regional activi­ties”.
While campaigning for the presi­dency Trump said he would tear up the nuclear agreement on his first day in office, calling it “the worst deal ever negotiated”.
Defence chiefs of Saudi Arabia and the United States have also pledged to work together to coun­ter Iran’s disruptive actions in the Middle East.
In a telephone call January 31st, US Defense Secretary James Mattis and Deputy Crown Prince Moham­med bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, who is also the Saudi Defence min­ister, stated “their full rejection of the suspicious activities and inter­ventions by the Iranian regime and its agents”, the Saudi press agency reported.
Mattis, a retired US Marine Corps general who served during the first Gulf War and the 2003 invasion of Iraq, is known for his deep aversion towards Iran, describing it once as “the biggest destabilising force in the Middle East”.
An exchange of visits is expected between King Salman and Trump in the near future.