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Hagel Continues Middle East Trip in Jordan

By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

AMMAN, Jordan, May 14, 2014 – Following what he called a “successful” ministerial conference with the U.S.-Gulf Cooperation Council, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel left Saudi Arabia today to continue his multiday trip to the Middle East here.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel delivers closing remarks during the U.S.-Gulf Cooperation Council defense ministerial conference in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, May 14, 2014. DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Hagel met here with Jordanian Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mashal Mohammad Al-Zaban and his senior advisor, Prince Faisal bin Al-Hussein, to discuss Eager Lion, an annual combined military exercise that involves 6,000 U.S. personnel, as well as a variety of security challenges facing the region, a senior defense official said.

“Also, it’s an opportunity to hear from the general directly about the threats they’re facing from Syria, the humanitarian situation in Jordan … and the security implications of the Syria crisis on Jordan,” the official said.

This consultation follows on the secretary’s discussions with King Abdullah II in February and with Al-Zaban in March, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement. “The leaders discussed regional security issues and noted the strength and importance of the U.S.-Jordan partnership,” he added. “As a result, both sides have reached an agreement in principle to enhance Jordan's border security, especially against weapons of mass destruction.”

More than 1,000 U.S. personnel are stationed in Jordan as part of a Patriot detachment, an F-16 deployment and a U.S. Central Command forward planning element.

Before leaving Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Hagel met with defense ministers from all six member nations of the GCC -- Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The strong bilateral relationships the United States maintains with its Gulf partners reflect the nation’s commitment to the region’s security, the defense secretary said.

“But the security challenges facing this region threaten the region as a whole, and no one nation can address them alone,” he added.

The United States offered several proposals at the ministerial, all intended to further develop regional cooperation, the defense secretary said.

“Following today’s productive discussions, the ministers have agreed to meet in the region on a regular basis,” he said. In addition, the vice ministers will meet in Washington before the end of the year, a meeting that is expected to become a twice-yearly event, a defense official said.

Council attendees reaffirmed their commitment to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, Hagel said. “While we noted that Iran’s diplomatic engagement has been a positive development,” he added, “we continue to share deep concerns about Iran’s destabilizing activities throughout the region.”

The defense leaders also pledged to deepen their cooperation in support of the Syrian opposition, the defense secretary said.

“We agreed that our assistance must be complementary -- and that it must be carefully directed to the moderate opposition,” Hagel noted.

(Follow Claudette Roulo on Twitter: @rouloafps)

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Chuck Hagel

Related Sites:
Special Report: Travels With Hagel
Photo Essay: Hagel Attends U.S.-Gulf Cooperation Council Defense Ministerial in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

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