U.S. Vice President Joe Biden kicked off a five-day trip to the Middle East Monday, vowing that the United States would "squeeze the heart" out of Islamic State and destroy it.
Biden visited U.S. airmen stationed at the Al-Dhafra Air Base near the United Arab Emirates capital of Abu Dhabi, as drones taxied down the runway.
He dismissed Islamic State insurgents as "criminals and cowards." Biden, using an Arabic name for Islamic State, told the airmen, "We have to squeeze the heart of Daesh in Iraq and Syria so they can't continue to pump their poison in the region and around the world."
In an interview with the Abu Dhabi newspaper, The National, Biden pressed the U.S. case for a negotiated peace settlement to end the five-year civil war in Syria, ruling out a military solution. Peace talks are set to resume again later this week in Geneva as a truce has sharply curtailed fighting in recent days.
"A political solution between the parties is the only way to end the violence and give the Syrian people the chance they deserve to rebuild their country," Biden said. "To create a credible, inclusive, and non-sectarian system, a new constitution and free and fair elections."
Biden is scheduled to meet with Abu Dhabi's crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, as well as Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, who is the federation's vice president and prime minister.
Biden also visited Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque on Monday, stopping to examine a wall in the ornate mosque bearing the 99 names of God written in Arabic.
Later, he toured a government-backed clean energy campus, where he sampled water purified at a desalinization plant, a crucial facility for the future of the Emirates, which experts are predicting could run out of groundwater in the next 15 years.
Biden, accompanied by his wife Jill, is also visiting Israel, the West Bank and Jordan.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will host talks with Biden on Wednesday. Ahead of their meeting, Netanyahu said the visit is evidence of the strong relations between Israel and the United States and that those who predicted the collapse of their ties have been proven wrong.
Biden will also meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday, and on Thursday he will hold talks with Jordan's King Abdullah II.