News / USA

Kerry in Saudi Arabia for Talks on Syria, Iran

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, talks with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, after Kerry arrived in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Nov. 3, 2013.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, talks with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, after Kerry arrived in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Nov. 3, 2013.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is in Saudi Arabia for talks with King Abdullah about Syria's civil war and negotiations over Iran's nuclear program -- issues that are straining U.S.-Saudi relations.

Kerry is hoping to get long-standing ties between Washington and Riyadh back on track after differences over Syria and Iran.

Saudi Arabia last month rejected a United Nations Security Council seat to protest what it called "double standards" over the U.N.'s failure to act in Syria's civil war, where President Bashar al-Assad is backed by Shi'ite leaders in Iran.

Saudi Arabia, which supports the mostly-Sunni Muslim rebels fighting Mr. Assad, was disappointed that Washington backed off its threat of missile strikes against Assad's chemical weapons in favor of a U.S.-Russian plan to destroy those munitions.

Speaking to reporters in Cairo Sunday before traveling to Riyadh, Kerry said the United States and Saudi Arabia share the same goals in Syria.

"There are some countries in the region that wanted the United States to do one thing with respect to Syria, and we have done something else," he said. "Those differences on an individual tactic on a policy do not create a difference on the fundamental goal of the policy."

Kerry said Washington and Riyadh are both working toward a Syrian transitional government that does not include Assad.

The Syrian leader wants Iran to be part of talks on that interim authority. U.S. officials say they have made clear to their Saudi allies that Washington will oppose Iran's inclusion unless Tehran first agrees to the underlying principles of the executive authority of that transitional government.

Saudi leaders are also concerned about apparent progress in international efforts to contain Iran's nuclear program, with both Saudi Arabia and Israel questioning Iran's sincerity. Iran's new government is working to ease crippling economic sanctions tied to suspicions that it is trying to develop nuclear weapons.

Kerry said the Obama administration understands regional security concerns about Iran and is committed to its "major defensive relationships" in the Middle East.

"We will be there for Saudi Arabia, for the Emirates, for Qataris, for the Jordanians, for the Egyptians and others,": he said. "We will not allow those countries to be attacked from outside. We will stand with them."

Saudi Arabia is also helping to fund a military-backed interim government in Egypt, from which the United States is withholding some major weapons systems because of violence that followed July's coup against the country's first democratically elected leader.

Former U.S. ambassador Adam Ereli says increasingly divergent views between Riyadh and Washington reflect a more muscular Saudi foreign policy.

"Look, Saudi Arabia's vital national interests are in play here," he said. "In Syria. In Yemen. In Egypt."

Ereli says the Obama administration is neglecting Saudi Arabia at its own peril.

"How can you take Saudi Arabia for granted? What are you kidding me? They're our 12th-largest trading partner," he said.

Kerry has twice visited Saudi Arabia as secretary of state, but these will be his first talks in that capacity with King Abdullah.

A senior administration official traveling with Kerry says the United States completely agrees with Saudi Arabia about countering Iran's support for groups that Washington and Riyadh consider to be terrorist organizations.

The senior official says the Obama administration supports Saudi Arabia's "much needed" financial assistance to Egypt, but believes it would be appropriate to link that assistance in some way to economic reforms because progress toward a democratic transition in Egypt is tied to its overall economic success.

You May Like

Video In Ukraine's Nikishino, No House Untouched by Fighting

Ninety percent of homes in one small village were damaged or destroyed as government forces failed to stop a rebel advance More

Pakistan’s 'Last Self-Declared Jew' Attacked, Detained

Argument about the rights of non-Muslims in Pakistan allegedly results in mob beating well-known Jewish Pakistani More

Turkey Cracks Down on Political Dissent, Again

People daring to engage in political dissent ahead of upcoming general elections could find themselves in jail More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
In Their Own Words: Citizens of Kobanii
X
Mahmoud Bali
March 06, 2015 8:43 PM
Civilians are slowly returning to Kobani, after Kurdish fighters backed by coalition airstrikes fought off a four-month siege of the northern Syrian town by Islamic State militants. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Mahmoud Bali talked to some of those who have returned. We hear about the devastation of Kobani through their own words.
Video

Video In Their Own Words: Citizens of Kobani

Civilians are slowly returning to Kobani, after Kurdish fighters backed by coalition airstrikes fought off a four-month siege of the northern Syrian town by Islamic State militants. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Mahmoud Bali talked to some of those who have returned. We hear about the devastation of Kobani through their own words.
Video

Video In Ukraine's Nikishino, No House Untouched by Fighting

In the village of Nikishino, in eastern Ukraine, recent fighting has brought utter devastation. Ninety percent of the houses are damaged or destroyed after government forces tried and failed to stop rebels advancing on the strategically important town of Debaltseve nearby. Patrick Wells reports for VOA from Nikishino.
Video

Video Crime Scenes Re-Created in 3-D Visualization

Police and prosecutors sometimes resort to re-creations of crime scenes in order to better understand the interaction of all participants in complicated cases. A Swiss institute says advanced virtual reality technology can be used for quality re-creations of events at the moment of the crime. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Sierra Leone Ebola Orphans Face Another Crisis

There's growing concern about the future of an orphanage run by a British charity in Sierra Leone, after a staff member and his wife died this week from Ebola. The Saint George Foundation Orphanage in Freetown is now in quarantine, with more than 20 children and seven staff in lock-down. The BBC has agreed to share Ebola-related material with Voice of America because of the difficulties faced by media organizations reporting the crisis. Clive Myrie reports from Sierra Leone.
Video

Video Growing Concerns Over Whether Myanmar’s Next Elections Will Be Fair

Myanmar has scheduled national elections for November that are also expected to include a landmark referendum on the country's constitution. But there are growing concerns over whether the government is taking the necessary steps to prepare for a free and fair vote. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman was recently in Myanmar and files this report from our Southeast Asia bureau in Bangkok.
Video

Video Nigeria’s Ogonis Divided Over Resuming Oil Production

More than two decades ago, Nigeria’s Ogoni people forced Shell oil company to cease drilling on their land, saying it was polluting the environment. Now, some Ogonis say it’s time for the oil to flow once again. Chris Stein reports from Kegbara Dere, Nigeria.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More