News / Middle East

    Kerry: US-Saudi Friendship Strong as Ever

    US Reassures Gulf Allies, Seeks to Ease Regional Tensionsi
    X
    Pamela Dockins
    January 23, 2016 10:12 PM
    The United States is seeking to reassure Saudi Arabia and other Gulf allies in light of developments suggesting a warming of relations between the U.S. and Iran. Secretary of State John Kerry is in Riyadh, where he met Saturday with Saudi officials and other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    US Reassures Gulf Allies, Seeks to Ease Regional Tensions
    Pamela Dockins

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated support for ally Saudi Arabia as he finished a visit to the country Sunday, saying the two nations have as strong a friendship as ever.

    Kerry said “nothing has changed” as a result of the agreement the U.S. and five other world powers made with Iran to curb its nuclear program in exchange for lifting billions of dollars in sanctions.

    His comments were similar to ones he made Saturday as he met with Saudi and other Gulf officials in Riyadh.

    The meetings in Riyadh come on the heels of a flurry of Iran-related activity, including implementation of the nuclear deal, Tehran’s temporary detention and release of 10 U.S. sailors, and a negotiated swap that resulted in freedom for four Americans jailed in Iran. A fifth American was released by Tehran around the same time, last week.
     
    In spite of these developments, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said, “I don’t see a coming together of the United States and Iran.”
     
    Jubeir commented as he and Kerry sat side-by-side in a Saturday news conference.
     
    “I don’t believe the United States is under any illusion as to what type of government Iran is,” he added.

    WATCH: Joint news conference of Kerry and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir

    Kerry Discusses Syria after Gulf Talksi
    X
    January 23, 2016 3:45 PM
    The U.S. and its Gulf allies have “clarity” on how to precede on the initial steps in talks that could lead to a political transition in Syria, says Secretary of State John Kerry. He commented from Riyadh Saturday following talks with Saudi officials and other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

    Although implementation has brought Iran relief from nuclear-related sanctions, it is still under U.S. penalties for activities including human rights violations and support of terrorist groups. Also, shortly after implementation of the nuclear deal, Washington imposed new sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missile program.

    Sanctions

    But some say the sanctions relief from implementation that, according to U.S. estimates, gives Tehran direct access to at least $55 billion in previously frozen assets, could empower Iran.  

    “Iranians feel confident that they are being brought back into the international community and that their role in the region and the world will be better recognizes, particularly by the U.S. and Europe, said Atlantic Council Middle East analyst Nabeel Khoury.

    “This bothers Saudi Arabia because they don’t trust Iran,” he said.

    In an interview with CNN, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif expressed a similar sentiment.
     
    “We believe that Iran and Saudi Arabia can be two important players who can accommodate each other,” in the region, he said.
     
    But he added, “Unfortunately, the Saudis have had the illusion that backed by their Western allies, they could push Iran out of the equation in the region.”
     
    Tensions heightened between Saudi Arabia, the dominant Sunni country in the region,  and Shi’ite-led Iran following this month’s Saudi execution of  Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a prominent Shi’ite cleric.  Protesters responded by storming Saudi missions in Tehran —  a move that prompted Saudi Arabia to cut ties with Iran.
     
    Saudi Arabia may have been trying to send out a broader message by executing the cleric, said Jonathan Schanzer, a Middle Eastern studies scholar at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
     
    “We [the United States] have made it worse,” said Schanzer. “The Saudis feel less secure and now they are taking matters into their own hands,” he said.
     
    In a Friday briefing, a senior State Department official said the U.S. understands “the Saudi anger over the attack on their facilities in Iran.”
     
    Regional tensions

    The official said lessening tensions is an important objective for the U.S. and for the region.
     
    There has been ongoing concern that tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia could hamper progress on other regional issues of concern for the U.S., such as the crisis in Syria.
     
    The U.S., Saudi Arabia and Iran are part of the International Syria Support Group, which is backing next week’s planned launch of talks on a political transition in Syria.
     
    In his Saturday news conference with the Saudi foreign minister, Kerry indicated there was a way forward for the U.S. and its Gulf allies, in spite of lingering concerns about Iran.

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry walks with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, center, to attend a Gulf Cooperation Council meeting at King Salman Regional Air Base in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Jan. 23, 2016.
    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry walks with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, center, to attend a Gulf Cooperation Council meeting at King Salman Regional Air Base in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Jan. 23, 2016.


    The relationship between the U.S. and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which includes Saudi Arabia, is built on “mutual interest,” and “mutual defense,” said Kerry.
     
    He added, there was “no doubt” among GCC countries that the U.S. would “stand with them against any external threat and defend them, if necessary.”

    Chris Hannas in Washington contributed to this report.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments page of 2
        Next 
    by: PermReader
    January 25, 2016 6:23 AM
    " Stalin and Mao listen us! Moscow - Beijing, Moscow - Beijing! - Soviet song.

    by: Igor from: Russia
    January 25, 2016 2:26 AM
    Without oil Saudi Arabia is only rubbish to the US. Without obeying the US unconditionally in order to survive, the Kingdom members would have been hanged long ago. Money controls everything!

    by: debra from: Canada
    January 24, 2016 11:39 AM
    Of course they are. The Saudi currency is tied to the US dollar.

    Behaviour has NOTHING to do with justice ever.

    by: Mike McLean from: Toronto, ON
    January 24, 2016 11:02 AM
    A 'friend' would not lead the charge to decimate the world economy, and cripple the US move to energy self-sufficiency, by pumping oil into storage way in excess of world demand.Mr. Kerry, give your head a shake!

    by: Amin from: Texas
    January 24, 2016 8:33 AM
    We will see the true colors of Saudi Arabia at the Syrian talks. See which groups they support and then tell me what kind of friendship we have with them.

    by: JGTinNJ from: USA
    January 24, 2016 8:03 AM
    US ties with Saudi Arabia as strong as ever? I think not. It takes a while for a big ship to turn, but turn it must. The Iranian government has the potential to evolve into something more acceptable to its citizens and the Western world in the next decades. The Saudi model has no such potential and will continue to be a source of instability. Without US support to maintain control of oil the governments of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States would have been in the dustbin a long time ago.

    by: ramin from: berlin
    January 24, 2016 6:15 AM
    So US has put sanctions on Iran due to its human rights records, yet here it is selling weapons worth billions to the Saudis who have a worse human rights track record than the Iranians.

    What hypocrisy!

    by: what now from: uk
    January 24, 2016 4:59 AM
    what hypocrisy. what makes the dictators in saudi arabia any better then gadaffi, assad and mubarak? for the love of money and power?

    by: Henry Tobias from: Israel
    January 24, 2016 4:09 AM
    Making a deal with the devil to counter a deal already made with another devil (Iran)

    by: AHMED from: INDIA
    January 23, 2016 8:43 PM
    Saudi Arabia is crying day and night about Iran. What SA is doing in Syria,Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Egypt and Pakistan. SA is sponsoring Terrorist Groups to kill innocent and helpless peoples and play with their dead baody.
    SA is proud of their Oil Income. SA suppose to give bread and water to poor Muslims in other countries. SA is taking all things from Poor Muslims and left then in open ground with no life.
    God knows our dirty Politics very much, Aley Saud will get good treatment after death from God side.
    Comments page of 2
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