US, Gulf states ink pact to fight terror funding

US President Donald Trump meeting with leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council in Riyadh yesterday, on the second day of his visit to Saudi Arabia. An MOU was agreed on to tackle the financing of terrorism.
US President Donald Trump meeting with leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council in Riyadh yesterday, on the second day of his visit to Saudi Arabia. An MOU was agreed on to tackle the financing of terrorism.PHOTO: REUTERS

Trump meets Gulf rulers, who agree to prosecute those who finance terrorism

RIYADH • United States President Donald Trump held talks yesterday with leaders of the oil-rich Gulf monarchies, a day after Washington told their arch-rival Iran to dismantle its "network of terrorism".

The meeting with leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) on the second day of Mr Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia, part of his first foreign tour since taking office, came hours before the US President addressed an Arab Islamic American Summit.

The GCC groups together Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, all of which are traditional allies of Washington.

In the meeting, GCC leaders and Mr Trump agreed on a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to establish a centre to combat the financing of terrorism, Saudi official news agency SPA reported.

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Sitting next to Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud in an ornate room in Riyadh's conference centre, Mr Trump witnessed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef exchange documents and shake hands to formalise the agreement.

"It's the farthest-reaching commitment to not finance terrorist organisations," US Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell said yesterday. "The unique piece of it is that every single one of them are signatories on how they're responsible and will actually prosecute the financing of terrorism, including individuals."

Leaders of the GCC posed for a photo with Mr Trump before they walked into their meeting.

Ahead of the meeting, Mr Trump held talks with the rulers of Qatar and Bahrain yesterday.

The early morning talks were a glimpse of what may come. He promised Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa that ties will improve under his administration. "There won't be strain with this relationship," Mr Trump said. The King told Mr Trump that their nations have worked together for over a century and developed "a very good foundation of mutual understanding and strategy" that has "led to a great stability in the region".

Later, sitting next to Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani, Mr Trump said the two will discuss "the purchase of lots of beautiful military equipment, because nobody makes it like the United States". "And for us, that means jobs and it also means, frankly, great security back here, which we want," he added.

He also held a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi at The Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh. Mr Trump praised the Egyptian leader for what he said were successful efforts to fight terrorism under "trying circumstances". Said Mr Sisi: "You have a unique personality that is capable of doing the impossible."

"I agree," the US President replied, as his advisers and others laughed. "I will get to Egypt. We will absolutely be putting that on the list very soon," Mr Trump said.

The GCC meeting also focused on how to stem what is viewed by Arab Gulf states as Iran's rising political sway in the region.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG, WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 22, 2017, with the headline 'US, Gulf states ink pact to fight terror funding'. Print Edition | Subscribe