The United Arab Emirates says US Vice President Joe Biden has apologised to the Abu Dhabi crown prince for “any implications” in remarks he made last week that the UAE had supported fighters in Syria.
Sunday’s phone call, confirmed by US officials, came after a day after Biden offered a similar apology to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Biden, who is known for his occasional verbal gaffes, angered US allies when he suggested in a speech at Harvard University on Thursday that Turkey, Qatar and the UAE had extended “billions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of weapons” to Sunni fighters trying to overthrow Bashar al-Assad, Syrian president.
“In the phone call, Biden offered his apology to the UAE for any implications in his recent statements that may have been understood to mean that the UAE had supported the growth of some of the terrorist organisations in the region,” WAM, the official UAE news agency, said.
Biden’s office, in a statement regarding the telephone call to Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, said the vice president “clarified that his recent remarks regarding the early stages of the conflict in Syria were not meant to imply that the UAE had facilitated or supported ISIL, al-Qaeda or other groups in Syria”.
The statement said: “The vice president noted the UAE’s strong steps in countering extremist messaging and financing and expressed gratitude for their participation in ongoing military operations against ISIL.”
The UAE is one of a handful of Arab allies taking part in US-led air strikes against the self-declared jihadist Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant group in Syria. The others are Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia.
The UAE had expressed surprise after over Biden’s comments.
Biden’s remarks were “amazing and ignore the role of the Emirates in the fight against extremism and terrorism”, Anwar Gargash, UAE junior minister for foreign affairs, said in a statement carried late on Saturday by WAM.
Gargash had asked Biden to clarify the comments in which he said the US vice president had given “a false impression about the role of the UAE … at a time when it is actually supporting … efforts to overcome” the dominance of fighters.
“The vice president apologised for any implication that Turkey or other allies and partners in the region had intentionally supplied or facilitated the growth of the ISIL or other violent extremists in Syria,” Biden’s office said on Saturday, in a similar apology to Turkey.
It came after Erdogan reacted furiously to the comments Biden made at Harvard University on Thursday in which he criticised allies in Turkey and the Arab world for supporting Sunni armed groups in Syria, including ISIL and the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front.