Vice President Joe Biden on Sunday called the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates to clarify that he did not mean to imply in his remarks last week that the Gulf ally was supporting al-Qaida fighters in Syria, the White House said.
Biden spoke with Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and a key Emirati leader, the White House said.
It was the second time in two days that Biden had to call a key partner in President Barack Obama’s coalition to walk back comments he made on Thursday, when he said that U.S. allies — including Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the UAE — had funded and armed extremist groups linked to al-Qaida.
Earlier Sunday, an exasperated UAE requested “a formal clarification” from Biden on comments that America’s allies in the Middle East sent weapons and cash to extremists fighting in Syria.
The White House said Biden clarified his remarks and recognized the UAE’s “strong steps” to counter extremists and participation in U.S.-led airstrikes against Islamic State militants. The White House statement said Biden’s remarks regarding the early stages of the Syrian civil war “were not meant to imply that the UAE had facilitated or supported” al-Qaida, the Islamic State group or other extremists in Syria.
The UAE’s official news agency said Biden had “apologized to UAE for any implications in his recent statements that were understood to mean that UAE has backed the growth of some of the terrorist organizations in the region.”
The UAE is a key Arab partner in the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State group and has targeted its fighters in airstrikes in Syria. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Jordan also have carried out airstrikes against the group in Iraq and Syria, while Qatar has provided logistical support.
On Saturday, Biden already called to apologize to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the White House said in an earlier statement.
“The vice president apologized for any implication that Turkey or other allies and partners in the region had intentionally supplied or facilitated the growth of ISIL or other violent extremists in Syria,” the White House said, using an acronym for the Islamic State group