Secretary of State Antony Blinken apologized to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) last month for the US response to attacks on the emirates from Yemen's Houthi rebels, according to a report published Wednesday.
Blinken issued the apology to Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan during a meeting last month in Morocco, the Axios news website reported.
The UAE was frustrated about the U.S. response to Houthi attacks just as Washington has been vexed by Abu Dhabi's response to Russia's war against Ukraine.
Washington has been pushing allies, including long-standing partners in the Gulf, to adopt a hard line against Russia's aggression. But the emirates and other Gulf Arab allies, including Saudi Arabia, have maintained a neutral if not pro-Russian policy.
The Emirates abstained from a Security Council vote in February condemning Russia's assault. It also abstained from last week's U.N. General Assembly vote that booted Russia from the Human Rights Council.
Blinken told bin Zayed that the Biden administration took too long to respond to the Houthi attacks on the emirates, and apologized, Axios reported.
A senior State Department official who spoke to Axios on condition of anonymity did not deny that Blinken conveyed the U.S. apology but did not comment on the private diplomatic discussions.
“The Secretary made clear that we deeply value our partnership with the UAE and that we will continue to stand by our partners in the face of common threats," the official said.
But the response to the Houthi attacks was just one of several significant strains on the bilateral relationship.
In addition to Abu Dhabi's displeasure with the US response to the attacks, the UAE has also been frustrated with the Biden administration's refusal to reimpose a terrorist designation on the Houthis.
The U.S. under President Joe Biden reversed course on his predecessor's designation due to the humanitarian implications of the labeling. The Houthis remain in control of wide swathes of Yemen, which is in the midst of a devastating famine and widespread suffering caused by years of conflict.
Humanitarian groups warned that labeling them a terror group would complicate the delivery of direly-needed aid.