Obama hails ‘success’ of Camp David summit

EXCLUSIVE: U.S. President Barack Obama hailed the success of the Camp David summit in which he met with Gulf leaders

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U.S. President Barack Obama hailed on Friday the success of a summit held the day before with six Gulf leaders in his Camp David compound, saying that the aim of the meeting was to “deepen and broaden” the “excellent relationship” between Washington and its Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) allies, he told Al Arabiya News Channel.

“The intentions here were to deepen and broaden what is already an excellent relationship between the GCC countries and the United States,” Obama told by Al Arabiya’s Washington correspondent Nadia Bilbassy.

On Iran, which many Gulf countries see as a regional threat, Obama said that plans had been made for “joint capabilities to address destabilizing activities and conflicts in the region, some of these are related to concerns surrounding Iran.”

On the forthcoming Iranian nuclear deal, brokered between six world powers – including the United States – and the Islamic Republic, Obama sought to allay fears from Gulf allies that the agreement would weaken their own security.

Watch Al Arabiya's full interview with U.S. President Barack Obama here:

Reckless republic

“The United States has been very clear that a nuclear armed Iran will potentially be reckless and dangerous. So it is in everyone’s interest to ensure Iran does not have nuclear weapons and provide a pathway for Iran to engage in positive behavior,” Obama said.

The United States will also hold more joint military exercises with the GCC states, he added.

Obama also discussed his relationship with Saudi King Salman, and his late predecessor who passed away in January. “We have extraordinary respect for his majesty and his leadership. I had a great relationship with King Abdullah who is deeply missed.”

He also praised the Saudi crown prince, who has been the interior minister since 2012, before also being appointed heir apparent last month.

“Mohammad bin Nayef has been a partner with us on counterterrorism work and security work for a very long time, so we have a great admiration for him.”

Obama also hailed Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who also serves as the kingdom’s defense minister.

“This is the first time we had a chance to work closely with a deputy crown prince and he struck as extremely knowledgeable, very smart and wise beyond his years.”

Syrian situation

Asked where the Syrian conflict was likely to be resolved before he leaves office in 2017, and whether or not it would prove to be his “Rwanda” - a reference to the 1994 genocide in the African nation which killed hundreds of thousands - Obama said: “Probably not.”

Yet a lasting solution to the Syrian crisis must come from the Middle East itself, Obama reiterated.

On being asked what he thought about a perceived failure and inaction of U.S. leadership after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government was blamed in 2013 for using chemical weapons against civilians, Obama defended his refusal to authorize strikes against the Assad regime at the time.

“We didn’t because they got rid of the chemical weapons, and that in fact was very important.”

The Gulf allies play a key role in the region’s security, he added.

“What I’m optimistic about it is that the GCC countries represent stability and also I think an awareness of the need for us to be able to move together,” he said.

On the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Obama reiterated his commitment to a two state solution, adding that trust must be rebuilt between both sides in the peace process.

“Israel has legitimate security concerns, there is no doubt about it,” he said. “And what is also true is I am deeply committed to a Palestinian state.”

“We worked very hard, but frankly, the politics inside of Israel and the politics among the Palestinians as well made it very difficult for each side to trust each other enough to make that leap.”

In response, the U.S. would attempt to rebuild trust between the two sides in small steps.

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