U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says the United States and Saudi Arabia agree about what must happen in Syria, and he called the relationship between Washington and Riyadh strategic and enduring.
Kerry's comments came Monday at a joint news conference with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal and followed meetings with Prince Saud and Saudi King Abdullah.
The top U.S. diplomat is visiting Saudi Arabia as diplomatic ties between the two nations appear to have frayed over differences on how handle the ongoing fighting in Syria and Iran's nuclear program.
The Saudi foreign minister told reporters that despite tactical differences, Saudi Arabia and the U.S. share the same objectives in Syria. But he also told Kerry, "A true relationship between friends is based on sincerity, candor and frankness, rather than mere courtesy.''
Saudi Arabia, which backs Sunni Muslim-led rebels fighting to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has voiced concern that proposed Syrian peace talks backed by Washington could leave an Iranian-backed government in power in Damascus. Saudi leaders are also known to be upset over recent U.S. overtures toward strategic Saudi rival Iran.
During the news conference, Kerry said the quickest way to end the bloodshed in Syria is through a negotiated settlement, but he also said Syrian President Assad has lost all legitimacy and cannot remain in power. He also reiterated the U.S. position that Iran will not be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon.
Earlier Monday, Kerry called Saudi Arabia the "senior player" in the Arab world and told staff at the U.S. embassy in Riyadh the two nations have important things to discuss to ensure their relationship is "on track."
Before coming to Saudi Arabia, Kerry made a brief stop in Egypt. Kerry's other stops include Israel and the West Bank for meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. He also is due to visit Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Morocco and Poland.