US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Monday spoke by phone separately with the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Egyptian defense minister to discuss regional security issues, the Pentagon said.
During his conversation with UAE Crown Prince Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Hagel emphasized US commitment to security in the Middle East, and noted that the strong US-UAE bilateral relationship remains integral to regional stability, Pentagon spokesman George Little said in a statement.
Hagel also reaffirmed US commitment to the strategic partnership with Egypt, and discussed the recent decision about US security assistance to Egypt, it said.
On Iran's nuclear program, Hagel noted that his country intends to test the prospects of diplomacy. But he assured the UAE crown prince that, as it pursues a peaceful settlement, Washington remains firm in its commitment to the security of the region and to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, according to the statement.
While speaking with Egyptian Defense Minister Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, Hagel stressed the importance of the US-Egyptian relationship to the national security of both countries and to the region. They also talked about the importance of regional security cooperation, particularly in the Sinai Peninsula, Little said in a separate statement.
This was the first direct contact between US and Egyptian top officials since Washington decided last Wednesday to suspend part of its annual aid to Egypt.
The US State Department said Wednesday that it would withhold deliveries of tanks, fighter aircraft, helicopters and missiles as well as 260 million US dollars in cash assistance to Egypt.
State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said in a statement that the US will continue to hold the delivery of certain large- scale military systems and cash assistance to the Egyptian government "pending credible progress toward an inclusive, democratically elected civilian government through free and fair elections."
The Obama administration made the decision to suspend part of its aid to Egypt months after the country's first elected President Mohamed Morsi was deposed by the military in July.
Egypt lashed out Thursday at the US decision to suspend the aid. Describing it as a wrong decision, the Egyptian foreign ministry has said that Egypt will not surrender to US pressure.