ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, Feb. 22, 2011 — Citing “a time of enormous change” in the Middle East, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen today challenged regional leaders to step forward to ensure differences are resolved “peacefully, without loss of life.”
Mullen met with leaders here during the third stop of his multinational trip to reassure U.S. allies amid regional unrest.
“I really came to the region to both listen [and] to understand what the concerns are on the part of the leaders who are here, as well as reaffirm the relationship and look at how we address these issues together,” he told reporters after meeting with Mohammad bin Zayid Al Nuhayhyan, Abu Dhabi’s crown prince and deputy supreme commander of the nation’s armed forces.
“We discussed a wide array of issues, in great part focused on events in the region, but not exclusively,” Mullen told reporters after that meeting.
Mullen also met with Staff Lt. Gen. Mohammad Thani Al Rumaithi, chief of staff for the United Arab Emirates armed forces.
The sessions were conducted at the Abu Dhabi National Convention Center, which is hosting the International Defense Exposition and Conference. It’s the largest international arms expo in the Middle East, now in its 10th year, and the five-day conference attracted more than 1,000 companies, including about 110 from the United States.
Mullen, who walked briefly through the U.S. pavilion following his meetings, told reporters his sessions here, as well as those earlier this week in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, reflected widespread concern about events unfolding in the region.
He acknowledged “anxiety, while at the same time great focus on how to move forward in a positive way.”
There’s particular concern about violence in Libya, where Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s government and military have launched a violent assault on pro-democracy demonstrators.
Asked by reporters about the situation in Bahrain, Mullen praised Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa’s decision to “pull back the forces” and begin a national dialogue to address protestor’s concerns. His decision to engage “has relieved a number of the leaders I have talked [with] in terms of easing the tensions,” Mullen said.
The admiral reiterated confidence in the U.S.-Bahraini relationship and Bahrain’s role hosting the U.S. 5th Fleet.
“I’ve been in touch with our leadership there in Bahrain,” Mullen said. Bahrain’s support for the 5th Fleet and its people “continues to be very strong, and I look forward to that being the case in the future,” he said.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)