DOHA, QATAR —
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is meeting Monday in Qatar with his counterparts from the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) as he seeks to ease concerns about last month's international agreement on Iran's nuclear program.
The talks with the foreign ministers from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates follow a summit President Barack Obama held with representatives of those nations in May. Obama said the U.S. would deepen security cooperation, including holding more joint exercises, speeding up weapons sales and helping build a more coordinated missile system.
WATCH: Pamela Dockins reports from the scene in Doha
Some GCC members have raised concerns that sanctions relief from Iran, a key part of the nuclear deal, could allow Iran to widen its influence and have a destabilizing effect on the region. Gulf officials have also raised concerns that Iran would use the new flow of money to increase its support to militant groups such as Hezbollah.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed al-Jubeir appeared to offer lukewarm support to the deal after it was reached last month, saying his country would "welcome" any agreement that would guarantee Iran's "inability to obtain a nuclear weapon."
On the sidelines of Monday's meeting, Kerry and Jubeir are due to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for what a senior State Department official said would include discussion of the ongoing crisis in Syria.
Kerry arrived in Doha, late Sunday, after spending the bulk of the day in Egypt in a strategic dialogue session with Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry that focused on security and other issues.
“If Iran is destabilizing, it is far, far better to have an Iran that doesn’t have a nuclear weapon than one that does,” said Kerry in a joint appearance with Shoukry.
“I am absolutely convinced that Egypt, Israel, the Gulf states, every country in the region, is safer with one-year breakout for 10 years than two months,” he said, referring to provisions for Iran in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
US, Egypt seek warmer relations
Kerry is on a five-nation tour of the Middle East and South Asia.
In Egypt, he also met with President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, in a diplomatic show of support for Egypt's ongoing faceoff against Islamist extremists in the Sinai peninsula.
U.S. relations with Egypt have been strained since Mr. Sisi, the country's one-time army chief, overthrew the elected Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, in 2013. More than 1,000 Morsi supporters were killed in a crackdown on protests and militants have since killed hundreds of Egyptian soldiers and policemen.
Speaking alongside Shoukry, Kerry spoke of the need for "balance" in fighting militants and respecting human rights in Egypt.
Focus on economic cooperation in Asia
From Qatar, Kerry travels to Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam, three countries that have been involved in talks on the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership to cut tariffs and trade barriers.
He will also attend a forum in Kuala Lumpur organized by ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
While in Hanoi, Kerry will take part in an event marking the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and Vietnam following the lengthy U.S. war there four decades ago.