Newscast Media RIYADH—U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry denied on Monday reports of tensions between the United States and Saudi Arabia amid current crises in the region, such as the Syrian conflict and U.S. nuclear negotiations with Iran.
Describing the relations between the two countries as ” strategic and historical,” Kerry said, in a joint press conference with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal in Riyadh, that relations would “not be affected by tactical positions or transient crises.”
Kerry reassured Saudi officials that the recent American-Iranian talks aim to find a solution to the nuclear issue in a diplomatic way, while reaffirming America’s commitment to cooperate with regional allies.
He informed Saudi officials of the progress in the talks with Iran, emphasizing that such talks would not come at the expense of established relations in the region. He added the United States desires to retain alliances and protect its allies by assuring the flow of oil and the continuation of counter-terrorism to make the Middle East region free from “weapons of mass destruction.”
Concerning the Geneva II conference, which is meant to find a solution to the Syrian crisis, Kerry highlighted the efforts to hold the talks in consultation with all concerned parties, stressing that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should step aside to allow the formation of a transitional government in Syria. He urged that the conference be held quickly with all parties together to avert the outbreak of more violence.
The Saudi foreign minister, for his part, emphasized that relations between his country and the United States was based on sovereignty, mutual respect and cooperation which served the security interests of both countries. He explained that Saudi Arabia’s recent refusal to the rotating seat in the United Nations Security Council came as the result of the Council’s failure to address key issues in the region, especially the Israeli-Palestinian issue and the Syrian crisis as well as its inability to make the Middle East region free from weapons of mass destruction.
Faisal said there is “no role” for al-Assad in Syria’s transitional phase, stressing the importance of the participation of opposition groups in the upcoming conference. He added that Saudi Arabia is committed to peace and a dialogue that represents the Syrian people.
Kerry’s trip to Saudi Arabia is part of his nine-day trip to the Middle East and Europe. Kerry began his trip on Sunday in Egypt, where he met with Egyptian foreign minister and officials in the transitional government.
Newscast Media TEHRAN—Hezbollah’s Chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah Monday accused Saudi Arabia of seeking to derail the expected Geneva II Syria peace conference, saying the kingdom had become enraged over developments in the Arab state that only strengthened the Damascus government’s position.
He made his remarks during a speech marking the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the Great Prophet Hospital.
“The recent developments in Syria have helped us realize that there can only be a political solution, not a military one, to the unrest,” Nasrallah said.
“All concerned sides should approach dialogue in Syria without preconditions,” he demanded, while accusing Saudi Arabia of resorting to “all means” to topple the Syrian government.
“Obstructing the political solution in Syria will lead to more death and destruction and negative repercussions on Lebanon and all other countries neighboring Syria,” he warned.
Addressing the clashes in the northern city of Tripoli, the Hezbollah chief urged the cabinet to take a “firm decision” to put an end to the instability in the city.
“The army and security forces should take over control in Tripoli and the people should provide them with the necessary support while they perform their duties,” he continued.
Commenting on the political deadlock in Lebanon and failure to form a new government, Nasrallah accused the March 14 camp of only prolonging the impasse by imposing various conditions on forming a cabinet. He noted that the camp was and is still banking on the developments in Syria in order to take any political decision in this matter, saying that such actions will only maintain the deadlock.
He suggested that the March 14 camp “exercise some humility” and accept the formation of a cabinet that grants nine ministers to itself and the March 8 camp, while the remaining six be granted to centrists.
Since his appointment in April, Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam has faced conditions and counter-conditions from the rival March 8 and 14 camps over the formation of a new government. Furthermore, Nasrallah stressed the need for the caretaker government to convene in order to tackle the oil file and in order to order the army and security forces to take control of Tripoli.
He stated however that caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati is being pressured by Saudi Arabia and the March 14 camp against calling cabinet to session.
On the recent release of the Lebanese pilgrims who were held in Syria’s Aazaz region, he congratulated them on their safe return to Beirut, hoping that this development would pave the way for resolving the case of Lebanese held in Israel and Syria and who have gone missing over the past two years or since the Lebanese civil war.
Source: Tehran Times
Newscast Media NEW YORK—Saudi Arabia has refused to take its seat as a member of the UN Security Council on the grounds the body is unable to end wars and resolve conflicts. It was chosen to be one of five new non-permanent members on Thursday.
Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Friday announcing it had turned down membership of the UN Security Council a day after it was elected as a new non-permanent member. The ministry cited the body’s “double standards” as justification for the move.
“The kingdom sees that the method and work mechanism and the double standards in the Security Council prevent it from properly shouldering its responsibilities towards world peace,” the statement carried by Saudi state news agency SPA said. It pointed specifically to the civil war in Syria, in which it is a fervent supporter of rebel forces, and the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
“Failing to find a solution to the Palestinian cause for 65 years,” it said, has led to “numerous wars that have threatened world peace.”
Moreover, “allowing the regime in Syria to kill its own people with chemical weapons…without confronting it or imposing any deterrent sanctions … is a proof of the inability of the Security Council to carry out its duties and assume its responsibilities.”
The ministry also criticized the council’s failure to rid the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction, namely nuclear weapons – in reference to Iran and Israel. It said reforms needed to be introduced before it would consider taking its seat, although did not specify changes it felt were necessary.
Despite the lack of a contest, there was disapproval from human rights groups over the appointment of Saudi Arabia as well as Chad and Nigeria.
“The prestige of a seat at the world’s foremost diplomatic table should prompt the new members to get their house in order,” Human Rights Watch’s UN director Philippe Bolopion said Thursday.
Source: Radio Deutsche Welle
Newscast Media WASHINGTON—The Arab Spring is causing tensions in one of the Middle East’s most enduring alliances – between the United States and Saudi Arabia. And the cracks are beginning to show over Syria, Egypt and Iran.
It’s not often that not making a speech is taken as an affront. But when Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi Arabian foreign minister, did not make his annual address to the United Nations General Assembly recently, it was seen as a diplomatic slight, aimed not only at the UN Security Council’s failure to take action over Syria, but also at one of Saudi Arabia’s oldest allies: the United States.
This is part of a subtle but fundamental shift in the complex power balances in the Middle East. Recent developments have shown that the Arab Spring has put unfamiliar pressures on the relationship the US and Saudi Arabia.
The horrific, drawn-out conflict in Syria is the immediate point of contention. “There’s a real divergence of interests,” said Julien Barnes-Dacey, senior Middle East policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. “It’s increasingly being seen both in the US and Europe that Saudi ambitions in the region don’t match Western ambitions. The Saudis are seen to an extent as a destabilizing influence.”
Meanwhile, the Saudis are increasingly coming to believe that the US is going soft and not doing enough to help the Arab world. Stoking Saudi suspicion is the recent charm offensive undertaken by the new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who began making conciliatory gestures to the US over Iran’s nuclear program at the United Nations last month, culminating in this Tuesday’s nuclear talks between Iran and the six world powers in Geneva.
With Saudi Arabia backing the rebels in Syria, and Iran helping to prop up Bashar al-Assad, the longstanding rivalry between the regional powers has found a violent flashpoint. The Saudi kingdom was therefore dismayed to see the US welcoming – albeit cautiously – the new moderate tone coming from Tehran.
“The Saudis’ worst nightmare would be the administration striking a grand bargain with Iran,” former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia Robert Jordan told Reuters. Such a deal could, for example, see Washington willing to tolerate Iran’s influence in Syria in exchange for inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities.
“If the Saudis perceive Iranian influence in the region to be threatening, clearly any approach that suggests a US-Iranian rapprochement would be very worrying,” Barnes-Dacey told Deutsche Welle.
“The Saudis are intent on pushing back against groups linked to Iran, whether that be Assad or Hezbollah, but it also means pushing back against groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, who subscribe to a political ideology that the Saudis see as a threat internally.”
But other analysts point out that the US approach may be the only way to resolve the Syrian crisis. “If the US wants to resolve the chaos in Syria, there is no way around the involvement of Iran,” said Marc Pierini, former EU ambassador to Syria and scholar at Carnegie Europe. “The nuclear issue is also a further reason to engage. Everything else has to be seen in that context – not that anyone should trust Iran blindly, but Tehran is an essential component.”
Source: Deutsche Welle
Newscast Media RIYADH—Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), apparently pleased with the ouster of the former President Mohamed Morsy, have approved $8 billion in aid to Egypt on Tuesday.
The Saudi funds comprise a $2 billion central bank deposit, $2 billion in energy products, and $1 billion in cash, the Saudi Finance Minister Ibrahim Alassaf told Reuters.
The UAE meanwhile offered $3 billion, including a grant of $1 billion and a $2 billion interest-free deposit in Egypt’s central bank.
The Emirati offer was made during a meeting between a UAE delegation to Cairo, led by UAE National Security Chief Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed al-Nahyan, and Egypt’s interim president Adly Mansour.
“The United Arab Emirates stands by Egypt and its people in this crucial phase. It has confidence in the choices made by its people, as well as this people’s ability to overcome the current challenges,” Sheikh Hazza said, according to WAM.
Earlier, a senior Egyptian Petroleum Ministry official said on Tuesday that UAE has sent 30,000 tonnes of diesel to Egypt via Suez.
The diesel shipment is the first in a series the UAE has pledged to Egypt following the 30 June protests that ousted the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsy from power.
Egypt imports petroleum products worth US$300 million every month, squeezing the country’s foreign currency reserves which dropped to $14 billion by the end of June. The rise of Mohamed Morsy’s Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt since 2011 has unsettled most Gulf Arab states, including the UAE, which feared it would embolden Islamists at home.
“Public finances have been on a downward track since the revolution, and the pace of deterioration has been accelerating,” said Simon Williams of HSBC.
“Access to donor money will buy Egypt time, but it will not address the underlying problem which requires a recovery in growth to boost revenues and curbs on subsidies and salaries to slow spending.”
Source: Al-Masry Al Youm/Egypt Independent
Newscast Media TEHRAN, Iran— According to the Tehran Times, Iranians aren’t thrilled with talks of a possible Bahrain-Saudi union. Iranian worshippers across the country held demonstrations after Friday prayers to protest the decision recently made by Persian Gulf Arab states to discuss a proposal for a closer political union that could begin with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.
In the demonstration that was held outside the University of Tehran, the worshippers chanted slogans in condemnation of the proposal and the Bahraini government’s wrong policies and expressed their support for the Bahraini people.
Meanwhile Press-TV reports that the leader of this week’s Friday prayers in Tehran, Hojjatoleslam Kazem Sediqi, told worshippers that the Al Khalifa government and the House of Saud must be aware that the Iranian people and other Muslim people in regional countries will not remain silent about this “American plot”.
“Though some Arab countries describe it as union, the reality is that the Bahraini regime is surrendering its identity to another country with utter ignominy, instead of paying heed to the demand of its own nation,” Seddiqi said.
Saudi Arabia is seeking to initially create a closer union with Bahrain in line with plans to unify the six Arab member states of the [Persian] Gulf Cooperation Council. The [P]GCC members, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman, met in the Saudi capital of Riyadh on Monday to discuss closer “union” among the six countries.
In another related article, Press-TV reports that Bahrainians have taken to the streets and are marching under the slogan “Yes to Our Nation”, to express their opposition to the Saudi bid for a closer union with Bahrain, saying their country is not for sale.
Newscast Media LONDON, England —The outspoken princess and critic of the House of Saud said in an interview with the BBC called for her country to implement a new constitution giving men and women equal rights in kingdom. Princess Basma is the daughter of Saudi Arabia’s former King Saud.
She lists five key changes she would like to see – to the constitution, divorce laws, education system, social services and the roll of the mahram (chaperone).
Princess Basma, who currently resides in West London, told the BBC: “Our ancient culture, of which I am very proud, is renowned for its nobility and generosity, but we lack, and urgently need, fundamental civil laws with which to govern our society.”
In regard to women’s rights she said, “We need independent women’s refuges where the rights of women are upheld and backed up by powerful laws that can override family traditions and protect women.” Below is the interview in part:
Audio courtesy BBC Outlook