Kerry Meets Persian Gulf Arabs on Iran, Syria

Kerry Meets Persian Gulf Arabs on Iran, Syria  Kerry Meets Persian Gulf Arabs on Iran, Syria

US Secretary of State John Kerry met Persian Gulf Arab countries in Saudi Arabia on Saturday for talks aimed at calming their concerns about the international agreement over Iran's nuclear program and pushing the Syrian peace process forward.

Kerry began a stop in Riyadh by meeting with representatives of the six states of the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council, namely Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and the UAE, Reuters reported.

The Syria peace efforts are complicated by the worsening relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which back different sides in the Syrian conflict, and concerns some Arab states have about how Tehran will benefit from the implementation of a nuclear deal agreed with world powers last year. Tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran worsened this month after Riyadh's execution of prominent Shia Muslim cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr triggered an attack by Iranian protesters on its Tehran embassy, leading the kingdom to cut diplomatic ties.

A senior US State Department official said before Kerry's arrival in Riyadh that Washington hoped Saudi Arabia would restore diplomatic ties with Iran after the Leader of Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei denounced the embassy storming this week. The official said Kerry had emphasized to the Iranian and Saudi foreign ministers the importance of reconciliation, a need also emphasized by Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who visited Riyadh and Tehran this week. However, he said the United States had no plans to engage on the issue of facilitating a Saudi-Iranian rapprochement and that Washington, which has no diplomatic ties with Tehran, was not well placed to do so.

Iranian officials maintain that Riyadh's aggressive policy toward Tehran is rooted in its anger at the settlement of Iran's nuclear issue, which had created a "smokescreen" for Saudis to divert international attention from their backing for extremist groups.    Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir has said in several interviews this month that full relations cannot be restored until Iran changes its regional approach.

Saudi Arabia accuses Iran of fomenting instability across the Middle East and regards Iran's backing for its allies in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen as a threat to its own security.

Tehran denies the claim that its activities are destabilizing the region, stressing that it is committed to assisting regional countries in their fight against terrorism and extremism to help restore calm to the Middle East.