Saudi Arabia, UAE and US plan security forum to address Iran’s ‘malign activity’

A display featuring missiles and a portrait of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is seen in Tehran in September 2017. A new trilateral security forum will address Iran’s alleged malign activity in the Middle East. (Reuters)
Updated 21 March 2018

Saudi Arabia, UAE and US plan security forum to address Iran’s ‘malign activity’

WASHINGTON: Saudi Arabia, the UAE and US are launching a trilateral security forum to address Iran’s “malign activity” in the Middle East and other strategic issues, a US senior administration official said.

The forum, to be held at the national security adviser level, will engage monthly on issues of strategic importance, including the US’ South Asia strategy, the unity of the Gulf Cooperation Council and the war in Yemen.

The US official added that Saudi Arabia’s security is a priority for the US, saying that over the past nine months, Congress has approved $54 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

The official said that the US administration will look to broker multibillion-dollar commercial deals with Saudi Arabia during the visit by Crown Prince Mohammed to the US.

Details of the forum emerged as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman began his multi-city tour of the US, where he met President Donald Trump on Tuesday.

Firas Maksad, director of the Arabia Foundation in Washington, said that the move shows that the US is looking to build closer ties with its allies in the Arabian Gulf.

“At a time of great change, both in Washington and in the Middle East, the announced trilateral security group signals US determination to coordinate more effectively with its closest Arab allies,” he told Arab News.

“This is especially timely given Trump's anticipated decision on the Iran nuclear deal in May, and ongoing efforts to counter that country's expansionism in various middle easter theaters. It is also an acknowledgment of the growing role of the Saudi Arabia and the UAE in the region, including on issues as far afield as Pakistan and Afghanistan,” added Maksad, who is also an adjunct professor at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs.


German defense minister rejects Turkey complaint over Libya weapons ship search

Updated 24 November 2020

German defense minister rejects Turkey complaint over Libya weapons ship search

  • Germany insists it acted correctly in boarding a Turkish ship to enforce arms embargo of Libya
  • Turkey summoned European diplomats to complain at the operation

BERLIN: Germany’s defense minister on Tuesday rejected Turkey’s complaints over the search of a Turkish freighter in the Mediterranean Sea by a German frigate participating in a European mission, insisting that German sailors acted correctly.
Sunday’s incident prompted Turkey to summon diplomats representing the European Union, Germany and Italy and assert that the Libya-bound freighter Rosaline-A was subjected to an “illegal” search by personnel from the German frigate Hamburg. The German ship is part of the European Union’s Irini naval mission, which is enforcing an arms embargo against Libya.
German officials say that the order to board the ship came from Irini’s headquarters in Rome and that Turkey protested while the team was on board. The search was then ended.
Turkey says the search was “unauthorized and conducted by force.”
German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer backed the German crew’s actions.
“It is important to me to make really clear that the Bundeswehr soldiers behaved completely correctly,” she said during an appearance in Berlin. “They did what is asked of them in the framework of the European Irini mandate.”
“That there is this debate with the Turkish side points to one of the fundamental problems of this European mission,” Kramp-Karrenbauer added, without elaborating. “But it is very important to me to say clearly here that there are no grounds for these accusations that are now being made against the soldiers.”
This was the second incident between Turkey and naval forces from a NATO ally enforcing an arms blockade against Libya.
In June, NATO launched an investigation over an incident between Turkish warships and a French naval vessel in the Mediterranean, after France said one of its frigates was “lit up” three times by Turkish naval targeting radar when it tried to approach a Turkish civilian ship suspected of involvement in arms trafficking.
Turkey supports a UN-backed government in Tripoli against rival forces based in the country’s east. It has complained that the EU naval operation focuses its efforts too much on the Tripoli administration and turns a blind eye to weapons sent to the eastern-based forces.
In Ankara, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said that Irini was “flawed from the onset.”
“It is not based on firm international legal foundations,” Akar said. He renewed Turkey’s criticism of the German ship’s actions.
“The incident was against international laws and practices. It was wrong,” he said.
Kramp-Karrenbauer stressed that “Turkey is still an important partner for us in NATO.” Turkey being outside the military alliance would make the situation even more difficult, she argued, and Turkish soldiers are “absolutely reliable partners” in NATO missions.
But she conceded that Turkey poses “a big challenge” because of how its domestic politics have developed and because it has its “own agenda, which is difficult to reconcile with European questions in particular.”