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US keen to strengthen bi-lateral security ties says official

posted on 16/01/2002: 636 views

The US is looking to maintain and strengthen in the future, bi-lateral security relationships with countries in the Gulf "as a function of shared interests,” according to William Burns, US Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs, who is on a visit to the UAE as part of a tour of countries in the region.

In an interview with the Emirates News Agency (WAM), Burns said that during his discussions with leaders in the Gulf states, he expressed the US appreciation for the steps which have been taken in the security area by our friends in the Gulf, which have provided some very important support to the campaigns which have gone on. This is a reflection of the security relations we have and most importantly, I think it is a reflection of our shared interests. Because the security of this region is important first and foremost to the countries in the region themselves and we are pleased to provide what support we can.

"In terms of the future, we want to maintain and strengthen where we can, those bi-lateral security relationships again as a function of our shared interests. That is the kind of thing that we are always looking to do more of,” he said. Burns said that during his meeting with President H.H. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan on Monday night, he conveyed a personal message from US President George Bush expressing America's appreciation of the solidarity which the people of the UAE have shown to the people of the US since the terrible attacks on the 11th of September. "We had a strong relationship before the 11th of September, but I believe we have an even stronger one today,” he said about the ties between the UAE and the US.

The US official said that during his talks with Sheikh Zayed and with Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, a whole range of issues of importance to the United States and the UAE were discussed. +I also expressed our thanks to the Emirates for their generosity in supporting the people of Afghanistan, because after all, our campaign there, the international campaign there, is not just about a military campaign. It is also about trying to create together a better future for the people of Afghanistan. "We also had an opportunity to talk about ways of further strengthening our bilateral relationship, and also discuss some important regional issues, especially the continuing conflict between Palestinians and Israelis and what we can do to help revive the political process and bring about a peaceful solution.”

On whether discussions were held regarding regulating the activities of charity organisations, Burns said: "In general terms, we discussed mutual interests in trying to strengthen regulations and rules that ensure that charitable contributions that are made by individual citizens, which are honourable things, whether it is in the United States or in the UAE, get where they are intended to go. We have had problems in the US for example with some American charitable organisations which had defrauded people who had made contributions. So what we have offered to our friends in the Gulf is whatever benefit they can get from our own technical experience in trying to come up with a system of regulations that ensures that charitable institutions are well run.” "As you know the US Treasury Department has published a list of institutions/individuals about whom we have questions. We've shared those with our friends. We have also offered technical support and we want to go about this in a practical, quiet, serious way. And it really is our belief that our friends in the region can benefit over the longer term from establishing those kind of systems of regulation so that people have greater confidence. Maybe in the future, people will make even more charitable contributions because they will be more confident that it is going to get where it is intended.” Burns said that specialists from the US had provided questions/information about suspect organisations. "Again, that has been very much in the sphere of helping governments in the region answer these questions in their own interests for their own benefit and for the benefit of their citizens who make charitable contributions and to ensure that the money is not getting in the hands of terrorists and extremists. We do have some information for example, that there are some institutions and individuals based in South Asia who have defrauded people from the Gulf who have made contributions. I think we can work carefully and quietly together to try and address that problem. And I think all of us will benefit in the longer run.” On the possibility of more names being added to the list, Burns said that as the US has more information and concerns, it will certainly share them.

Burns said that he also discussed in general the US appreciation of the generosity of states in the region, and particularly the UAE, shown for Afghanistan as well as Pakistan. The US is seeking financial support for development programmes in both the countries, he said. "We encourage others to provide what help they can. In terms of the specifics, it is obviously for governments in the region to announce themselves and it is my impression that the countries of the Gulf are looking very carefully at what they might be able to provide at the Tokyo conference to be held on January 21-22 as well as beyond. We certainly provided very strong encouragement for that and we are also prepared to do our part as well.”

On whether the war on terrorism will also focus on other channels like opening dialogue with moderate Islamic voices, education etc., Burns said that those are "all very important parts of our general policy in the region.” "More broadly, our policy had sought for years and the events of the 11th of September have served as a reminder, that just as we say that Bin Laden and groups like the Al Qaeda network have only a negative agenda, we need to work with our friends in the region to held develop a positive agenda so that people can see that conflicts, whether it is the Arab- Israeli, or other conflicts in the region, can be resolved peacefully. People can see that there is an opportunity for economic progress and prosperity, political participation and social progress. "That in many ways is just as important as the immediate challenge of rooting out terrorism," Burns said. On the role of the US in de-escalating Indo-Pak tensions and the forthcoming visit of Secretary of State Colin Powell to India and Pakistan, Burns said: + I know that what Secretary Powell is determined to do is to do everything within the power of the United States to encourage a peaceful resolution of issues. Because, it is obvious that no one is going to benefit from an escalation in tensions, particularly if those tensions explode into violence,” he said.

Replying to queries by Abu Dhabi TV on the Palestinian- Israeli conflict, Burns maintained that President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell have been trying to say something different in recent months based on what they see as a fair solution for the problem. He stressed that such a solution involved obligations from both the Palestinians and the Israelis in the coming months. "What they laid out, President Bush in New York, and Secretary Powell in a speech in Kentucky, was what we feel they have as a vision as a fair solution for the problem. And I think what you heard from them is language which you have not heard from American presidents or Secretaries of State before.” "And what they outlined there very simply was a vision in which two states emerge - Israel and Palestine, living side by side. And it is our conviction, which I believe we share with many people around the world, including Palestinians and Israelis, that that kind of a solution with two states is by far the best way to ensure the security and the prosperity of both the peoples of Israel and Palestine, and that's what we're determined to work very hard to achieve. Burns however stressed that it is not going to be easy, especially after the violence of the last sixteen months.” "There are people on both sides who are not interested in realizing the kind of vision that I described. Both sides are going to have obligations if we are ever going to bring that about. It is going to require difficult choices from both sides. We've talked quite clearly and emphatically about the need, for example, for the Palestinian leadership to work to make a maximum effort against violence, so that we can recover a political process, which is really the only way to realize that vision. But there are also obligations which the Israeli government must undertake. For example, easing the economic pressure on Palestinians, easing the closures,” he said.

Burns said that Palestinians, in their own interests should make a maximum effort to demonstrate a commitment to a peaceful process. This means a maximum effort against violence, against those extremist groups who do not share the vision of a peaceful resolution of the conflict, of the emergence of two states that can live side by side, he said. He said that this also requires honest and courageous people on both sides to speak out in favour of such a solution. A ceasefire that requires obligations on both sides can lead to the implementation of the Mitchell Report. And that again is not a means to an end, he said. +It is a way to get back to a serious negotiating process, which again, is the only way to bring to reality that kind of vision of two states," he said. +The United States is determined to do its part to bring it about, but the Palestinian leadership, as well as the Israel government, need to do their part," he added. (The Emirates News Agency, WAM)


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