Defense ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) will hold consultative talks with US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who begins his tour to three Middle East countries, including the Kingdom, on Monday.
The high-level US-GCC defense ministers’ meeting, to be attended by Crown Prince Salman, defense minister, in Jeddah, will mainly focus on the Syrian crisis and the Iranian nuclear program, besides a range of key bilateral and regional issues.
“Hagel will participate in the US-GCC ministerial meeting, an initiative that he had called for at the Manama Dialogue in December last year,” said Johann Schmonsees, a spokesman of the US Embassy.
“The meeting will provide an opportunity to step up cooperation with Gulf nations, as “we confront common regional security challenges related to Iran, Syria, Egypt and Iraq.”
The embassy spokesman said: “The ministerial meeting is designed to strengthen multilateral security cooperation in the region, while focusing on enhanced GCC coordination on air and missile defense, maritime security and cyber defense.”
Hagel planned stops are Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel, during his third Mideast visit as Pentagon chief.
Johann said the visit of the defense secretary provides an opportunity to GCC and US officials to hold candid consultations on Iran.
“It will be an opportunity to underscore US security commitments in the Middle East and to reinforce the US unstinting policy of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and further destabilizing the region,” he said.
An official from the GCC General Secretariat confirmed the meeting.
John Kirby, Pentagon press secretary, earlier spelled out the details of the Hagel’s visit to the Middle East at a press conference in Washington.
Kirby said Hagel would travel to Jordan after visiting the Kingdom, where he will meet with top Jordanian officials to discuss the US-Jordanian stance on the Syrian conflict.
The visit will highlight US commitments to Jordan’s defense, where more than 1,000 US personnel are deployed on the ground and are working closely with Jordanian officials.
Hagel’s final stop will be Israel, where he will meet top Israeli officials, including President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon.
The US has called on the Gulf states to collaborate more closely on ballistic missile defense (BMD).
In his speech in Bahrain recently, Hagel said: “The US continues to believe that a multilateral framework is the best way to develop an integrated regional missile defense. Such defense capabilities are the best way to deter and, if necessary, defeat coercion and aggression.”
The GCC bloc has been exerting efforts to put in place a single command and control system, while unifying their positions on security and defense issues.

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