UAE says Biden apologizes for any implication it supported militants

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 05, 2014 5:32 PM

DUBAI (Reuters) - The United Arab Emirates said on Sunday that U.S. Vice President Joe Biden had apologized to the Abu Dhabi crown prince for "any implications" made in a speech indicating that the UAE had supported Islamist militants in Syria.

Biden angered U.S. allies when he suggested in a speech to Harvard University students on Thursday that Turkey, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates had extended "billions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of weapons" to Sunni fighters trying to oust the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash demanded an official explanation for Biden's remarks, which he said had created "a negative and untrue impression about the role of the UAE", according to state news agency WAM.

WAM said on Sunday that Biden had telephoned Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nehayan, who is also the deputy supreme commander of the UAE armed forces, over the comments.

"In the phone call, Biden offered his apology to the UAE for any implications in his recent statements that may have been understood to mean that the UAE had supported the growth of some of the terrorist organizations in the region," WAM said.

Biden's office, in a statement regarding the telephone call to Sheikh Mohammed, said the vice president, "clarified that his recent remarks regarding the early stages of the conflict in Syria were not meant to imply that the UAE had facilitated or supported ISIL, Al Qaeda or other extremist groups in Syria".

It added, "The Vice President noted the UAE’s strong steps in countering extremist messaging and financing and expressed gratitude for their participation in ongoing military operations against ISIL."  

The UAE is one of several Arab countries that have joined a U.S.-led coalition against Islamist militants, and its air force participated in strikes on targets belonging to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the al Qaeda wing in Syria, the al-Nusra Front.

The White House on Saturday said that Biden had spoken with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan to clarify his comments at Harvard and apologize for "any implication that Turkey or other Allies and partners in the region had intentionally supplied or facilitated the growth of ISIL (Islamic State) or other violent extremists in Syria".

(Reporting by Sami Aboudi in Dubai and Jeff Mason in Washington; editing by Jane Baird)