A day after apologizing to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, U.S. Vice President Biden on Sunday made another apology, this time to the United Arab Emirates.
According to The Washington Post, Biden apologized for comments he made suggesting that the United States’ Arab allies armed and funded terrorists in Syria.
The furor over the comments, made during a foreign policy address at Harvard University last week, have exposed deep rifts between the United States and its regional allies over who is to blame for the rise of the “Islamic State” (IS or ISIS) and how to go about confronting it, underscoring the fragility of the coalition formed to fight the extremist group.
The White House said Biden telephoned Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and the most prominent Emirate leader, to say that the vice president did not intend to imply that the UAE supported terrorists, according to The Washington Post.
The call followed an angry statement from the UAE’s Foreign Ministry earlier in the day expressing “astonishment” at Biden’s remarks and demanding a “formal clarification.”
Biden had described the United States’ allies as the “biggest problem” in the fight against terrorism, then went on to name Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
Turkey was the first to complain, about a different remark made on the same occasion in which Biden claimed that Turkish President Recep Tayyep Erdogan had told him that Turkey was wrong to let foreign fighters cross the Turkish border into Syria.
Erdogan responded with a furious outburst, calling his relationship with Biden “history,” demanding an apology and denying that he had either made the comment to Biden or that Turkey had allowed foreign fighters to cross its borders.
Biden called Erdogan on Saturday to apologize, and the White House issued a separate statement in which the vice president said that Biden did not intend to imply that any of those allies had “intentionally” facilitated terrorists.
The United Arab Emirates is a key member of the international coalition formed to confront ISIS. A statement from the UAE’s Foreign Ministry said Biden had overlooked the UAE’s “role in confronting extremism and terrorism.”
The UAE’s contribution, the statement added, “comes as part of a more comprehensive political stand against this plague,” hinting at one of the biggest points of contention between the United States and its regional allies over who is to blame for the rise of the Islamic State.
Saudi Arabia and Qatar have not issued a response to the Biden comments, noted The Washington Post.
10 Arab countries have announced they will back the U.S. in its military campaign against IS.
The coalition, which started with airstrikes on IS targets in Iraq, recently also expanded its campaign to include targets in Syria as well.