|With US Independence Day approaching, HE William Roebuck, US Ambassador, speaks to Bahrain This Month about his first few months in post and plans for the future in a difficult regional climate.
Ambassador Roebuck arrived in the Kingdom at the beginning of the year, but he is no stranger to the Arab world. He explains: “Before I joined the State Department I taught English in Taif, Saudi Arabia. I spent six years and met my wife there and have spent a great deal of time in the region ever since. I have truly enjoyed exploring the varied landscapes and environments here and interacting with the diverse spectrum of people across the region. I have served all over the Middle East, from Tripoli to Jerusalem to Baghdad, and really enjoyed getting to know the different customs, languages and histories of this fascinating part of the world.”
There was some controversy attached to the previous US Ambassador Tom Krajeski, but His Excellency is quick to pay tribute to his predecessor saying: “I’ve said before that this relationship [between the US and Bahrain] is far greater than one ambassador or one entity. It is a strong, multifaceted relationship and it will only get stronger as we work together to constantly expand and build upon it. I am very appreciative of Ambassador Thomas Krajeski for his exemplary leadership of the US Mission here in Bahrain and the important relationships and partnerships that he forged during his tenure.
“I think that this relationship is in the safe hands of the people of both countries that have worked so hard together to build up such a robust partnership. I feel very privileged to be able to serve as the US Ambassador here and to contribute to this incredibly important bilateral relationship.”
And acknowledging the Bahraini leadership’s role, he adds: “As we have said time and again, His Majesty King Hamad deserves great credit for his role in fostering reform and dialogue in the country, from his support of the National Action Charter of 2002, through his endorsement of the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) and to more recent support for National Dialogue in 2013-2014. I look forward to working closely with the Government of Bahrain under the leadership of His Majesty the King and to working with all Bahrainis to assure a prosperous, secure and peaceful future for our two nations and the entire Gulf region.”
Speaking of plans for his term in office Ambassador Roebuck says: “It is more important than ever that our governments continue to work together to confront shared challenges. The United States stands ready to support Bahrain as a friend and partner, with respect and appreciation for the role that Bahrainis have played in advancing the values shared by our two great nations.
“I also see quite a bit of opportunity for expanding our economic co-operation and our commercial team actively works with both US and Bahraini businesses to strengthen commercial ties. I look forward to continuing to work closely with the Ministry of Industry & Commerce and the Economic Development Board to coordinate efforts to promote and expand the US-Bahrain trade relationship. The United States only has Free Trade Agreements with 20 countries worldwide, and Bahrain was the first Gulf country to sign an FTA with the United States (entered into force August 2006). It took several years and hundreds of people to negotiate and implement the FTA and we see it is one of the key tools we have in building our economic partnership.”
The ambassador also points out his government’s commitment to supporting security in the region in light of the range of ever-escalating conflicts. “The United States is committed to working with our partners in this region to addressing the very real external threats that exist here,” he says. “President Obama met with the leadership from the Gulf Cooperation Council countries last month to reaffirm the US strategic partnership with the Gulf States, our shared concern about Iran’s destabilising activities in the region and our mutual commitment to take steps necessary to enhance stability in the Gulf and de-escalate tensions. The summit also presented us with a unique chance to discuss ways to resolve the multiple conflicts that have caused so much hardship and instability throughout the Middle East. Specifically, our discussions focused on seeking common approaches to resolving the conflicts in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen.”
When he is not engaged in affairs of state, Ambassador Roebuck is making the most of his time on the ‘Island of Smiles’. He says: “I’ve been in Bahrain for about six months and have truly enjoyed my time here thus far. I don’t think I have ever been welcomed more openly and met so many incredibly friendly people in such a short amount of time. I’ve already seen first-hand the incredible depth or our two countries’ people-to-people relationship and the multitude of issues and endeavors that we cooperate on. I look forward to meeting and working with many more of our Bahraini friends and colleagues in the near future.
“My wife recently joined me here in Bahrain and our son is visiting us during his summer break from university. I have enjoyed introducing them to all of the wonderful people I’ve met so far and we continue to explore all of the different attractions that Bahrain has to offer.”.