Remarks With His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa
Secretary of State
KING HAMAD: Your Excellency, Secretary Kerry, distinguished guests, it’s a great pleasure to welcome you, Secretary Kerry, and your accompanying delegation to Bahrain. Your visit comes at a crucial time for our region and the world, and highlights the importance of the deep and longstanding partnership between Bahrain and the United States of America.
This historic relationship between our two nations was born not from agreements between governments but from friendship between peoples. It began when, in 1893, a group of courageous Americans traveled to a distant land and set up a hospital that continues to serve our people to this day. In the following decades this relationship flourished, and today it encompasses security, economic, and cultural ties that continue to develop year after year.
In the late 1940s, we welcomed the establishment of the U.S. Middle East Force in Bahrain – a small naval facility providing communication and logistical support to marine forces in the region. This was the cornerstone upon which the United States’ security cooperation with Bahrain and the wider region was built.
Over the years, our security relationship evolved into what it is today with the U.S. Fifth Fleet based in Manama playing a pivotal role in ensuring the safety of the vital waters of the Arabian Gulf, working with the GCC commitment for the benefit of international security, trade, and commerce.
As a major non-NATO ally, we have engaged in numerous joint military exercises, and we join U.S. forces in military and humanitarian operations in Afghanistan. In addition, we have worked together to secure the water of the Arabian Gulf to preserve the Strait of Hormuz as the crucial commercial waterway of the region, and to fight piracy in the Gulf of Aden. We stood together in combating the spread of weapons of mass destruction and worked toward world peace.
Perhaps the most important joint operation we took part in was Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm to liberate Kuwait, in which the contribution from Bahrain was second only to that of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. To illustrate the importance of our joint efforts, I was shown a photograph showing four U.S. aircraft carriers all in the territorial waters of Bahrain at the same time during the liberation of Kuwait – the largest naval commitment ever.
Meanwhile, trade between Bahrain and the United States has grown considerably since the implementation of our bilateral free trade agreement in 2006, due in no small part to the diversified nature of the Bahraini economy, and we look forward to enhancing our trade ties in the coming years.
All of this is but a small part of our strong and growing partnership, and as the region is going through a difficult period fighting extremism and terrorism, our continued partnership is essential in facing these challenges. I look forward to strengthening our historic relationship with the United States in the years to come. I would like to reiterate that this relationship remains, as always was, a core interest of the Kingdom of Bahrain. And despite misperceptions about our relationship in recent years, I assure you, Secretary Kerry, that as the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral William Crowe said: Pound for pound, Bahrain has been and continues to be America’s best friend in the world.
Secretary Kerry, we welcome you and your delegation once again to the kingdom, wishing you and your team a successful and productive visit to the region. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
SECRETARY KERRY: We’re glad to see you. Let me say to you and everyone assembled here that, first of all, I bring you President Obama’s greetings and I bring you the greetings of the people of our country, who are grateful for the strength of this relationship. And I want to personally thank Sheikh Khalid, who is a very solid interlocutor and a foreign minister who’s also become a very good friend of mine. And we have worked together for a number of years and I greatly appreciate the many courtesies from your government. Also, when I was injured, when I hurt my leg last year, you sent me one of the greatest gifts of Godiva chocolate I’ve ever received. (Laughter.) And since I love chocolate, I was very, very touched by that – very personal – and I thank you again publicly for that.
Your Majesty, we face, obviously, enormous challenges and you just articulated many of them. And I will agree with Admiral Crowe, whom I knew well and admired enormously. Pound for pound, Bahrain is making enormous contributions to this effort.
We have challenges ahead of us still, and you know them. I salute the steps you took, beginning in 2001, with your charter and the work you’ve done through commissions and through the crown price and others, to try and move a political process forward. And we have taken note of your genuine commitment to try and find a way forward. We also are grateful for the work with Afghanistan, your work in the anti-Daesh coalition. We’re making progress; we think we can make more.
And I look forward in our conversation now to being able to talk to you about some of the next steps we think we can do. But let me just, in front of everybody, confirm to you and to all who listen that the United States and Bahrain have a strong and solid commitment to fighting against terrorism together, to fighting extremism, and working on the economic transformation, the diversification that you’re looking for, and to seeing this relationship strengthen long into the future. And we thank you for your commitment it. Thank you, sir.
KING HAMAD: Thank you. (Applause.)