Regional integration is key to food and energy security, says US envoy

WASHINGTON: In an effort to encourage and support regional cooperation in efforts to combat climate change and improve food and energy security, the US is working with Oman, the UAE and India to develop projects that benefit the region and the wider international community, a leading American official said on Thursday.

Speaking during a briefing at the end of official visits to the UAE and Oman, Jose W. Fernandez, the US under secretary of state for economic growth, energy and the environment, said he had discussed projects related to food security, clean energy and space with government officials and business leaders from both countries.

He added that his visit is part of Washington’s efforts to build on the Abraham Accords — US-sponsored agreements by the UAE and Bahrain to normalize relations with Israel, which were followed by a similar move by Morocco — and encourage further normalization efforts by Arab states.

Fernandez said the primary aim of his visits was to promote and facilitate cooperation between countries in the wider region, including India and Israel, in the development of, and investment in, projects related to solar and wind energy, agriculture and food security.

About 850 million people in the world suffer from hunger and are in need of more food, he added, and US President Joe Biden’s administration has allocated billions of dollars for programs worldwide that promote food security and help countries establish their own food and agricultural programs.

His visit to Oman was very productive, Fernandez said. He praised the “historic” and “strategic” ties between the nations and noted that bilateral trade had increased by 30 percent in recent years.

As he encouraged greater regional cooperation between India, Israel and the UAE as part of I2U2 Group, of which the US is also a member, Fernandez said India is a key partner in efforts to develop strategic projects critical to food and energy security.

I2U2 is a joint initiative that aims to develop and invest in regional projects in sectors related to water, energy, transportation, health and space.

“India is bringing a lot to the group,” Fernandez said. It is building a “food corridor” and a major energy project in the state of Gujrat, he added, that will be essential to regional integration and global food and energy security.

Fernandez also praised the UAE for its efforts to address climate-related issues, especially given its role as a major supplier of energy and source of emissions.

“We are encouraged by the efforts taken by the UAE to combat climate change” he said.

The UAE will host the UN Climate Change Conference, COP28, toward the end of this year.


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