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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Open Source Seeds Hit the Market, Raise Awareness

First open source seeds include 29 new varieties of broccoli, celery, kale, quinoa and other vegetables and grains More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid