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 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