MbZ in talks with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at UAE leader's luxury Moroccan residence

MbZ in talks with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at UAE leader's luxury Moroccan residence
The US Secretary of State has held talks in Morocco with UAE de-facto ruler Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan and Morocco's Foreign Secretary.
3 min read
Blinken discussed the war in Ukraine and supply issues with his Moroccan counterpart [Getty]

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday visited Morocco, where he discussed regional security and met the UAE's de-facto ruler Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan.  

His trip comes as Russia's invasion of Ukraine - which the UAE initially failed to condemn - led to a massive spike in prices in import-dependent North African countries, hitting the poorest the hardest.

Speaking to journalists in Rabat, Blinken said the US recognised the "disaster" the supply crunch had caused.

"We're discussing concrete steps we can take ... to help reduce the impact, particularly on the most vulnerable populations," he said.

Blinken also said he was "encouraging partners to speak out against Russian aggression" and said he doubted Russia's "seriousness" in talks with Ukraine held in Turkey.

Washington's top diplomat had flown into Rabat late Monday from Israel where he met his counterparts from the UAE, Morocco, Bahrain and Egypt, underlining a deepening in ties between some Arab countries and Israel.

On Tuesday, he met Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita for discussions including on the Western Sahara dispute and security cooperation.

The same subjects will loom large in meetings the following day with Morocco's regional rival Algeria, after months of deteriorating relations between Rabat and Algiers.

Tensions with UAE

Blinken also met Tuesday evening with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed - often dubbed 'MbZ' - at the Emirati leader's Moroccan residence, an encounter that comes as Washington warily watches its longtime Gulf ally diverging from many of its policies.

The UAE has refrained from criticising Russia, even sending its top diplomat to Moscow, and recently hosted Russia-backed Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.

There has also been talk that the UAE has failed US requests to stabilise oil prices by pumping out more crude.

Despite this, Blinken emphasised that "the partnership between our countries really matters". 

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"At the same time, we have real challenges to confront together in the region and beyond," said Blinken, singling out the "terrorist attacks against the UAE" and Saudi Arabia by Yemen's Houthi rebels.

Their meeting comes amid an escalation in cross-border missile and drone attacks by the Iran-backed Houthis against infrastructure in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, allies in a grinding seven-year war that has laid waste to impoverished Yemen.

"We're determined to do everything we can to help you defend yourselves effectively" against the Houthis, Blinken added.

Blinken said he and the crown prince would also discuss the war in Ukraine and efforts to restore the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which aimed to limit the Islamic Republic's nuclear development in exchange for loosening sanctions. 

Former US President Donald Trump unilaterally walked out on that multilateral deal in 2018 and reimposed biting sanctions, provoking Iran into rolling back on its nuclear commitments, but months of negotiations in Vienna have sought to revive the pact. 

Blinken said Washington also continues "to view Morocco's autonomy plan as serious, credible and realistic" for the Western Sahara region.

Blinken's visit to Rabat also comes as the US seeks stronger support for Ukraine from a region where many countries have been reluctant to criticise Moscow.

They include Morocco, which has declined to condemn Russia at the United Nations, frustrating both Washington and European capitals.