President Joe Biden sent a senior U.S. delegation to the United Arab Emirates to offer condolences over the death of their ruler, apparently seeking to step up efforts to repair damaged ties with Arab allies in the Persian Gulf, Reuters writes.
Washington's desire to improve relations with the Gulf monarchies took on new urgency after the war in Ukraine, which highlighted the importance of oil producers in the Gulf as Europe seeks to reduce its energy dependence on Russia.
The Gulf states have so far refused to take sides in the conflict in Ukraine. OPEC heavyweights Saudi Arabia and the UAE have also resisted calls to increase production to help tame oil prices, which have exacerbated inflation worldwide.
US Vice President Kamala Harris landed in the capital of the Emirates, where she will stay for about three hours. She leads a delegation that includes nearly all of Biden's top national security aides.
According to senior US officials, the composition of the delegation reflects Washington's desire to demonstrate its commitment to the region.
They added that Harris will highlight the intention to deepen ties in areas ranging from security and climate to space, energy and trade.
The Middle East has not been a priority for the Biden administration, whose primary focus has been on China, and since February, the Ukrainian conflict has dominated the US foreign policy agenda.
The UAE and Saudi Arabia have held a grudge against the Biden administration.
Biden has so far refused to deal directly with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed.
The Emirates have been frustrated by the lack of strong US support since the Yemeni Houthis' rocket attacks in Abu Dhabi in January.