Panetta, Clinton to Meet With Gulf Council Ministers

WASHINGTON, Sept. 22, 2011 — U.S. lead­ers are com­mit­ted to main­tain­ing strong rela­tion­ships with Per­sian Gulf nations and to bol­ster­ing secu­ri­ty in the region, senior admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials said today.

Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta and Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Rod­ham Clin­ton will be among Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil mem­bers meet­ing in New York tomor­row with Gulf Coop­er­a­tion Coun­cil min­is­ters to dis­cuss a wide range of top­ics of mutu­al inter­est, offi­cials said.

Dur­ing a back­ground con­fer­ence call with reporters today, offi­cials said the min­is­te­r­i­al is intend­ed to deep­en and strength­en secu­ri­ty coop­er­a­tion between the Unit­ed States and the coun­cil, which includes six nations bor­der­ing the Per­sian Gulf: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Sau­di Ara­bia and Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates.

While the “Arab awak­en­ing” upris­ings across the region in recent months have altered con­di­tions there, the Unit­ed States and GCC share the goal of pro­mot­ing region­al secu­ri­ty in the Gulf, a senior admin­is­tra­tion offi­cial, speak­ing on back­ground, said.

“The GCC is emerg­ing as an increas­ing­ly crit­i­cal part­ner to advanc­ing our com­mon inter­ests,” he said.

Those inter­ests include Libya, Yemen, Syr­ia, mar­itime secu­ri­ty, counter-ter­ror­ism, ener­gy secu­ri­ty and coun­ter­ing weapons pro­lif­er­a­tion, the offi­cial added.

“U.S. col­lab­o­ra­tion with … the six GCC coun­tries work­ing togeth­er as an insti­tu­tion is crit­i­cal, and I expect the dis­cus­sion tomor­row will touch on all those top­ics,” he said.

The Unit­ed States and the coun­cil have sim­i­lar con­cerns about the role Iran tries to play in the region, the offi­cial said, and a unit­ed posi­tion on that issue sends “a pow­er­ful mes­sage to Iran that its aggres­sive activ­i­ties under­mine its region­al stand­ing.”

The GCC’s role as a strong, ear­ly advo­cate for U.N. inter­ven­tion in Libya was an “extra­or­di­nary exam­ple of shared lead­er­ship and coop­er­a­tion,” the offi­cial said.

The Unit­ed States also shares with the GCC a strong inter­est in pro­mot­ing Iraq’s long-term sta­bil­i­ty, the offi­cial said.

“Tomorrow’s meet­ing will con­tin­ue to put the GCC at the heart of the region’s secu­ri­ty archi­tec­ture, and start to for­mal­ize how we work togeth­er,” he said.

Anoth­er senior admin­is­tra­tion offi­cial said Panetta’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in the min­is­te­r­i­al is intend­ed to send a strong sig­nal of “how much we val­ue these part­ners.”

“We share sig­nif­i­cant com­mon inter­ests, includ­ing coun­ter­ing extrem­ism, stop­ping the pro­lif­er­a­tion of weapons of mass destruc­tion, ensur­ing the free flow of com­merce in the region, and address­ing any threats posed by Iran,” he said.

Dur­ing tomorrow’s meet­ing, Panet­ta will empha­size the need to strength­en and deep­en the secu­ri­ty archi­tec­ture in the Gulf region, which already includes a robust sched­ule of mul­ti­lat­er­al and bilat­er­al mil­i­tary exer­cis­es, coop­er­a­tion on counter-smug­gling and counter-pira­cy efforts, and increas­ing com­mon inter­est in shared ear­ly warn­ing and bal­lis­tic mis­sile defense, he said.

“We want to send a strong sig­nal to our part­ners regard­ing our endur­ing com­mit­ment to the secu­ri­ty of the region,” the sec­ond offi­cial said. “It will also send a strong sig­nal to Iran that if it con­tin­ues its desta­bi­liz­ing activ­i­ties in the region and refus­es to meet its inter­na­tion­al oblig­a­tions, it’s going to find itself less, rather than more, secure.”

The defense sec­re­tary also will dis­cuss the Unit­ed States’ long-term com­mit­ment to part­ner­ship with Iraq’s peo­ple and gov­ern­ment, an offi­cial said.

“A rela­tion­ship with the Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces will be an impor­tant part of that part­ner­ship, and we will be encour­ag­ing our [GCC] part­ners to do more to rein­te­grate Iraq into the region,” he added.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)