President Barack Obama and senior officials from six Gulf nations are continuing their summit Thursday on issues in the Middle East, including a potential nuclear deal with Iran and the fighting in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Libya.
Gulf Cooperation Council members: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE
The talks with the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council began with a working dinner Wednesday night at the White House before shifting Thursday to the Camp David presidential retreat about 100 kilometers north of Washington.
Obama said the meetings come during what he called a "very challenging time" in the Gulf region.
His Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes told U.S. government funded Alhurra television on Wednesday that one of the goals of the summit is to examine military capabilities and ways for the Gulf countries to both work together and with the United States.
"We're not looking at a binding treaty like we have with NATO countries, which is something that was painstakingly negotiated and developed over many years,"" Rhodes noted, " but we are looking at a clear commitment from the United States that we will come to the defense of our GCC partners in the face of external threats. And we have shown in the past that that includes potentially the use of military force as we did in the Gulf war."
Gulf states have expressed concern about the ongoing nuclear negotiations with regional rival Iran and want to upgrade their security relationship with the U.S. They are worried that a deal would boost Iranian prestige in the region and weaken U.S. ties with other Gulf states, particularly in military matters.
White House spokesman John Earnest said Wednesday the U.S. values its security ties with the Gulf Cooperation Council.
"There will be a discussion about how the president believes the best way for us to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon is through diplomacy," Rhodes said. "And the president believes it's clearly in the best interest of the United States, but he also happens to believe it's in the best interest of GCC partners, too."
Before the White House dinner Wednesday, Obama met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman - King Salma's son.
The president noted that the U.S. and Saudis have an "extraordinary friendship" dating back more than 70 years.
They also talked about Yemen and how to build on a humanitarian cease-fire there. The Saudis have led an Arab coalition carrying out airstrikes against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels who have forced Yemen's pro-Western president to flee.
Others attending the Gulf summit are the emirs of Kuwait and Qatar and senior officials from Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.
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