(MENAFN - The Peninsula) US Secretary of State John Kerry (fourth left) with GCC Secretary-General Dr Abdullatif Al Zayani (right) and the GCC foreign ministers in Riyadh.
Riyadh: Foreign Minister H E Dr Khalid bin Mohamed Al Attiyah yesterday participated in the GCC foreign ministers’ joint meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry. The meeting took place at King Salman Air Base in Riyadh. They discussed cooperation between the GCC and the US in light of the strategic partnership between them and the outcomes of similar joint meetings last year. The meeting also reviewed latest regional developments and international efforts to counter terrorism. Kerry on a visit to Saudi Arabia sought to reassure Gulf allies concerned about a perceived warming of ties between Washington and Iran. He also announced that the Syria Support Group of 20 nations and organisations will meet “very shortly” to help push peace in the war-ravaged country after the first round of Syria talks “because we want to keep the process moving”. Kerry spoke after meeting his Saudi counterpart Adel Al Jubeir and the other GCC foreign ministers. “The US remains concerned about some of the activities Iran is engaged in other countries” Kerry told reporters citing as an example Iran’s “support for terrorist groups like Hezbollah” in Lebanon. Saudi Arabia and its Gulf neighbours perceive a lack of US engagement in the region particularly in the face of what they see as Iran’s “interference” in Yemen Syria Lebanon and elsewhere. Those feelings crystallised with the historic international deal which this month lifted crippling economic sanctions on Iran in return for a scaling back of its nuclear capabilities. Kerry has long sought to calm concerns among his Gulf allies about the overtures to Iran whose relations with Saudi Arabia have worsened this month. Saudi Arabia and some of its allies cut diplomatic ties with Iran after protesters there burned Saudi embassy in Tehran and a consulate in Mashhad city. Violence broke out after the kingdom executed dissident Saudi Shia cleric Nimr Al Nimr a driving force behind anti-government protests. Nimr was one of four Shias put to death on January 2 alongside 43 Sunnis. All were convicted of “terrorism”. Al Jubeir told reporters that he did not see a “coming together” of the US and Iran. “Overall I think the US is very aware of the danger of Iran’s mischief and nefarious activities... I don’t believe the US is under any illusion as to what type of government Iran is” he added while Kerry appeared defensive and less at ease than usual. A senior State Department official earlier told journalists that the US understands Saudi anger over the embassy attack but that “lessening tensions is an important objective”. Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Wednesday said violence against the Saudi embassy was wrong and against Islam. Kerry later met Custodian of the Two Holy Mosque King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia and son Deputy Crown Prince and Defence Minister Prince Mohammed bin Salman. He also held talks with Riad Hijab Riyadh-based general coordinator of Syria’s largest opposition coalition. UN-brokered peace talks are targeted for tomorrow in Geneva but there is disagreement including from Moscow over opposition representation. “We are confident that with good initiative in the next day or so those talks can get going” Kerry said. Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov also discussed by telephone the makeup of the opposition team. “Particular attention was given to the need to form a genuinely representative opposition delegation” a Russian foreign ministry statement said. The Syria Support Group has devised a plan for a political transition to end the nearly five-year war in Syria that has cost more than 260000 lives and displaced millions. It includes Saudi Arabia the US and other countries who say President Bashar Al Assad can have no role in Syria’s future and Assad’s allies Iran and Moscow. Kerry spoke of the “urgency” of ending the conflict but said there are “obstacles” to finding a political settlement. “We know it’s tough” he said. Saudi Arabia and Iran back opposite sides in the Syria and Yemen wars. A Saudi-led military coalition since March has been supporting local forces and the internationally recognised government of Yemen against Iran-backed Houthi Shia rebels. “We have made it clear that we stand with our friends in Saudi Arabia” on Yemen and the threat from violent Sunni extremism said Kerry who travels today to Laos in Southeast Asia.
QNA and Agencies