UAE Foreign Minister says Trump travel ban an internal US affair

The minister was speaking at a joint news conference with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Abu Dhabi

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President Donald Trump’s travel ban imposed on citizens of seven mainly Muslim countries was a sovereign decision for the United States and not directed at any religion, United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdallah bin Zayed said on Wednesday.

Also read: Trump defends travel ban, says US needs ‘strong borders’

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed said most Muslims and Muslim countries were not included in the ban and the named states faced “challenges” that they needed to address.

“The United States has taken a decision that is within the American sovereign decision,” Sheikh Abdullah said.

“There are attempts to give the impression that this decision is directed against a particular religion, but what proves this talk to be incorrect first is what the US administration itself says ... that this decision is not directed at a certain religion.”

The UAE, a major oil exporter, is a close ally of the United States and a member of the US-led coalition fighting Islamist militants in Syria.

Speaking at a joint news conference with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Abdallah also said the idea of safe zones in Syria would be welcome if they were to be temporary and for humanitarian purposes under international auspices. But he said Abu Dhabi wanted to hear more details from Washington before subscribing to the idea.

“If the aim behind these areas is humanitarian and temporary and under an international umbrella, I think this is a basis we can work on,” he said.

“But I think that it is still early to decide what our final stance toward these zones is before we hear from the new US administration the ideas and develop that further,” he added.

“The United States has made... a sovereign decision,” he said, pointing out that it was “provisional” and did not apply to “the large majority” of the world’s Muslims. But the 90-day ban, which could still extend to other states, has exempted Muslim-majority nations associated with major attacks in the West.

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