Iran signs memorandum on joining Shanghai Cooperation Organization – TASS

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Barbara Leaf, U.S. assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, said on Wednesday that one of the main purposes of her recent trip to several Arab countries was to reaffirm U.S. commitment to the Middle East. and in North Africa.

She said the goal was to bolster the regional diplomacy efforts of President Joe Biden and his administration, including sharing U.S. priorities, helping Washington’s regional partners resolve conflicts, and a push for economic reforms. and policies.

Leaf told a briefing in Washington, attended by Arab News, that during her tour of Tunisia, Iraq, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian West Bank in late August and early September, she held talks with senior officials on conflict de-escalation and other local, regional and global issues.

In Tunisia, she said she discussed with President Kais Saied the political and economic challenges facing her country. She underlined to him the commitment of the United States in its partnership with Tunisia in favor of democratic values ​​and human rights, and the importance of an inclusive process of political and economic reforms.

Also in Tunisia, Leaf held talks with Mohammed Al-Menfi, Chairman of the Presidential Council of Libya, and Saddek El-Kaber, Governor of the Central Bank of Libya. She said she urged them to support a clear path to democratic national elections, as well as economic reforms and transparency.

During her visits to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, Leaf said she reiterated Biden’s message during her own trip to the region in July that “the United States remains steadfast in its ironclad commitment.” to Israel’s security and that the United States will work… to strengthen the United States. -Israeli partnership.

Washington also remains committed to “keeping alive the vision of a two-state solution where Palestinians and Israelis can live in safety and enjoy equal measures of freedom, security and prosperity,” she added. “That means working together collaboratively on economic and security issues and reducing unilateral actions.”

Leaf said she also followed Biden’s proposed plans to improve the Palestinian economic situation. These include the Israeli authorization of 4G cellular service for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, and an extension of the operating hours of the Allenby Bridge, which connects the occupied territories to Jordan and is the only international travel option for three million Palestinians living in the West Bank.

Additionally, Leaf discussed Biden’s proposal for $100 million in US aid to Palestinian hospitals in occupied East Jerusalem, which is awaiting US Congressional approval.

However, it remains unclear how the United States will reconcile its vision of a two-state solution amid ongoing illegal Israeli settlement activities in Palestinian areas and Israeli military raids targeting Palestinians. Since its occupation of the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza in 1967, Israel has built numerous illegal settlements and controls Palestinian land, water resources and airwaves.

During his visit to Amman, Leaf met Ayman Safadi, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Jordan. She said they discussed bilateral relations and the upcoming signing of a seven-year memorandum of understanding which will be the biggest and longest agreement between the two countries.

Jordan currently receives about $1.6 billion in annual economic and military aid from the United States, making it the second largest recipient after Israel.

“The United States is committed to reforming Jordan’s economy while building its resilience, stability, and security,” Leaf said.

She added that the human rights situation in the country, especially the arrest of journalists and civil rights activists, is part of ongoing bilateral discussions.

Leaf said that in Iraq she met with a number of senior government officials, academics, civil society activists and entrepreneurs for discussions on the country’s stability, economic progress and political process.

The United States views Iraq as a vital partner, she added, and a Strategic Framework Agreement remains key to the relationship.

“All of our activities, programs and policies are designed to support Iraq’s sovereignty, stability and security,” she said.

Aubrey L. Morgan