US's Blinken to meet UAE's Bin Zayed in Morocco to settle disputes

US's Blinken to meet UAE's Bin Zayed in Morocco to settle disputes
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet the UAE's de facto ruler, Mohammed bin Zayed, in Morocco amid disagreements over oil, Iran, and Ukraine.
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Blinken will meet Bin Zayed in Morocco [Getty]

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet the de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates in Morocco on Tuesday in a bid to ease disagreements over oil, Iran and the Ukraine crisis.

On his visit, Blinken will also have talks with Moroccan and Algerian officials after a period of heightened regional tension surrounding the dispute over Western Sahara.

Blinken's trip is aimed at shoring up ties with Arab allies that have chafed at what they see as declining US commitment to security in their region.

Unusually for a Middle East tour, the US secretary of state did not stop in Gulf monarchies that are among Washington's longest-standing partners.

However, Blinken is expected to meet Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan on Tuesday to stress the importance of both the UAE and Saudi Arabia to Washington.

They will discuss the Yemen war, Iran, global energy markets and the UAE's rapprochement with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, U.S. officials said.

The United States says it remains deeply invested in the region, even though its long-term focus is on China and its attention now is on the Ukraine crisis.

Washington wants its Arab allies to take a stronger stance against Russia by voting with the United States in the United Nations, joining Western sanctions or even sending security assistance to Ukraine.

The UAE abstained in a UN security council vote on Ukraine last month and Morocco did not show up for a general assembly vote. The UAE and Saudi Arabia both have increasingly important energy ties with Russia.

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Gulf states have for years been frustrated at what they see as US inaction in confronting Iran's role in the region, but their concerns have grown since Joe Biden became president.

They are worried about the impact of a potential new nuclear deal with Iran and annoyed that Washington has ended its support for their war in Yemen, put new conditions on weapons sales to Gulf states and criticised their human rights records.

Blinken is expected to reassure Sheikh Mohammed on Washington's commitment to stopping Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon amid a series of missile attacks by the Tehran-backed Houthi group in Yemen.

He may also seek to overcome Gulf resistance to a US request to raise oil output to tame rampant crude prices that have aggravated high inflation rates globally.

Before Blinken's visit, the State Department said it viewed Morocco's plan for autonomy in Western Sahara as serious, credible and realistic and "one potential approach" to meet the aspirations of the people of the disputed territory.

US recognition of Morocco's sovereignty over Western Sahara in late 2020, as part of a deal that also included Rabat boosting ties with Israel, angered Algeria, which supports the territory's Polisario Front independence movement.