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MENAFN - Arab News - 15/01/2014
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(MENAFN - Arab News) The crisis in Syria, which has killed 125,000 innocent people and uprooted millions from their homes, and the Iranian deal that seeks to curb the disputed nuclear program topped the agenda of talks held between Nizar Obaid Madani, minister of state for foreign affairs, and EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton, in Riyadh on Tuesday

The meeting also addressed several other key regional questions, including the Geneva II conference on the Syrian crisis taking place later this month

In their meeting, Madani and Ashton also tackled the latest developments in the region and the situation in Egypt. The two sides agreed that Egypt's stability is key to regional stability. "They also discussed the preparations for the Geneva-II Conference on the Syrian crisis," said Michael Mann, chief spokesperson of Ashton, while speaking to Arab News, via phone before leaving for Oman after a brief stopover in Riyadh on Tuesday.

Mann said, "issues like Yemen and EU relations with the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) were tackled at length during the meeting." In fact, Ashton's first visit to the Kingdom this year was mainly focused on consulting Gulf leaders, including Saudi officials, on "pressing regional questions such as the risis in Syria, the Middle East peace process, and the recent agreement on the Iranian nuclear program," the chief spokesman said.

The visit of Ashton to the five Gulf countries, including the Kingdom, has added significance keeping in view the fact that the deal that curbs parts of Iran's disputed nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief will take effect from Jan. 20. Ashton, who has presented the P51 group during the previous rounds of Iran nuclear talks, said in a statement that initial measures to implement the interim Geneva deal inked in November were finalized after the latest two-day meeting, which was concluded on Jan. 10. She said that the P51 and Iran would begin to implement the first step from Jan. 20, and that the IAEA will be asked to "undertake nuclear-related monitoring and verification activities."

After her talks with State Minister Madani, Ashton underscored the importance of concerted regional and international efforts to achieve the stability and security in the region. During the meeting, they also discussed relations between the Kingdom and the EU countries and ways of enhancing them.

Madani and Ashton also discussed the forthcoming International Pledging Conference for Syria to be held in Kuwait today


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