John Kerry reassures Gulf Arab states over warming US-Iran relations

Mr Kerry and Saudi foreign minister present united front after meeting of foreign ministers from Gulf Co-operation Council

Matthew Lee
Sunday 24 January 2016 01:04 GMT
John Kerry with Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir
John Kerry with Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir (Reuters)

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US Secretary of State John Kerry has met Gulf Arab officials to ease their concerns about the warming US-Iranian relations, and to seek consensus on which Syrian opposition groups should be represented at upcoming peace talks.

Mr Kerry and Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir presented a united front when they spoke at a news conference after a meeting of foreign ministers from the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC). The Gulf states have sided with the Saud kingdom in its spat with Iran, and backed the rebels fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a key ally of Iran.

Mr Kerry and Mr Jubeir said the US and the GCC agreed on the need to confront destabilising Iranian activities in the region, and on an unspecified “understanding” that will allow the UN-led Syria negotiations to begin this week as planned.

“Let me assure everybody that the relationship between the United States and the GCC nations is one that is built on mutual interest, on mutual defence, and I think there is no doubt whatsoever in the minds of the countries that make up the GCC that the United States will stand with them against any external threat,” Mr Kerry said.

Syrian opposition groups said that it was “impossible” to begin negotiating with the government without the implementation of UN humanitarian resolutions, and denounced what they said were Russian “diktats” to the opposition negotiators.

A joint statement signed by 45 opposition and rebel groups said that while they support a political process, they hold the Syrian government and its Russian backers responsible for any failure in peace talks due to their “ongoing crimes”, casting further doubts on the talks taking place.

Mr Jubeir has denounced Iran for its “hostile and aggressive stance” against Arab nations. But he said he did not believe that Washington would act rashly in dealing with Tehran because of the nuclear deal just agreed. It has given Tehran access to billions in formerly frozen assets.

On Saturday, Iran and China agreed to increase trade to $600bn (£420bn) over 10 years.

Associated Press, Reuters

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