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

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid