(MENAFN - Kuwait News Agency (KUNA)) WASHINGTON, JAN 30 (KUNA) -- Secretary of Defense James Mattis praised the US defense partnership with Qatar, calling it "a longtime friend in the region," during bilateral talks on Tuesday with senior Qatari officials.
Mattis praised his counterpart, Qatari Defense Minister Khaled Al-Atiyah, and the senior members of the delegation for Qatar's "strong" military partnership at the inaugural UA-Qatar Strategic Dialogue meeting hosted by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
"Even in the midst of its own current challenges, Qatar and the US maintain excellent military-to-military relations, hosting Al-Udeid Air Base, home to our Combined Air Operations Center, the US Air Force Central Command Forward Headquarters, and US Central Command's Forward Headquarters, providing critical counterterrorism support to the Defeat the Islamic State, Defeat Daesh coalition and President Trump's South Asia strategy," Mattis said.
Mattis expressed gratitude to Qatar's "longstanding support of America's present and continuing commitment to regional security," highlighting that Qatar Air Force completed its first two C-17 round trip flights from Afghanistan last week to support NATOs counter terrorism campaign.
The Secretary of Defense urged for a solution to the ongoing Gulf dispute, saying "It is critical that the GCC recovers its cohesion as the proud Gulf nations return to mutual support through a peaceful resolution that provides for enhanced regional stability and prosperity," he noted.
"A united Gulf Cooperation Council bolsters our effectiveness on many fronts, particularly on counterterrorism, defeating ISIS Daesh, and countering the spread of Iran's malign influence," said Mattis.
During the meeting, Defense Minister Al-Atiyah affirmed the "special relations" between the two nations as demonstrated by military-to-military partnership, highlighting Qatar's recent purchase of F-15 fighter jets from the US.
"The recent purchased of the F-15s fighter jets signal a new era of cooperation," Al-Atiyah said. "This strategic bird will assure our readiness to protect our own border and aid our allies further in our collective fight toward peace and stability." He also announced a cooperative military initiative "to ensure the safety of the forces serving in Al-Udeid and facilitate future capacity building by alleviating the classification of al-Udeid to permanent US military base." The initiative will include the exchange of military personnel and the expansion of al Udeid airbase, and include on-base housing for the American service member and their families, new state-of-the-art schools, as well as building quality recreational entertainment and service facility," Al-Atiyah said. The initiative is set to be completed by 2040. (end) hy.bs