Washington, Gulf states working on new security pact

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PARIS: US Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday Washington and Gulf nations were hammering out a new set of security initiatives in the Middle East to be further discussed at a summit next week.

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Kerry met in Paris with his counterparts from Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia to lay the groundwork for a meeting of their leaders with President Barack Obama on May 13.

Washington is keen to allay Gulf fears that the US is increasingly disengaging from a region riven by conflict, and that Iran could still develop a nuclear bomb under a international accord currently being finalised.

The Paris meeting focused on crises in the Middle East as well as concerns among Gulf monarchies over Iran’s growing influence in the region.

Kerry said the Camp David meeting would focus on “the threat of regional terrorism, the metastasizing of various terrorist organizations, the challenge of Iranian support in some of those particular conflicts.”

“We are fleshing out a series of new commitments that will create between the US and GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) a new security understanding, a new set of security initiatives that will take us beyond anything that we have had before.”

While he did not give any details on the planned initiative he said that both sides were working together to “strengthen the moderate opposition in Syria” against the Islamic State group and Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

Kerry also reassured the Gulf foreign ministers over nuclear talks with their rival Iran, and Washington’s commitment to the region.

“Let me be very clear also: Our effort to find a diplomatic solution to the nuclear issue with respect to Iran does not stem from any lessening of our concerns about all of these other destabilizing events within the region and it’s obvious to all I think that its easier to address those events if the potential of a nuclear weapon has been eliminated from the equation.”

Gulf states are also increasingly concerned about Iran’s growing influence in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.

Iran has repeatedly denied Saudi allegations it is arming Huthi rebels in Yemen.

Backing a Saudi call for a five-day humanitarian ceasefire in Yemen starting Tuesday, Kerry urged “those who have been supportive of the Huthi” rebels — hinting at Iran — to encourage them to lay down arms.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said Friday’s discussions on Iran alone took over two hours, with Kerry giving the ministers an extensive briefing on the technical aspects of the nuclear deal being finalized between Iran and the P5+1 powers (Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany).

AFP

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