US-Arab meet discusses anti-missile shield, Syria
RIYADH US SECRETARY of State Hillary Clinton in Riyadh on Saturday promoted a missile shield to protect Gulf Arab states from Tehran and sought to work with them to help end the violence in Iran’s ally Syria.
In a speech to a first multi-lateral Gulf-US security forum, Clinton stressed Washington’s “rock solid and unwavering” commitment to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman, all long-standing US allies.
In her prepared remarks, Clinton highlighted US concerns about Iran and talks with Gulf Arab foreign ministers ahead of a broader international meeting in Istanbul aimed at ending President Bashar al Assad’s crackdown in Syria.
Raising security ties from a bilateral to a multilateral level, Clinton is breaking new ground here in taking part in the first strategic cooperation forum between Washington and the sixcountry Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
She looked to taking “practical and specific steps to strengthen our mutual security, such as helping our militaries improve interoperability, cooperate on maritime security and missile defence, and coordinate responses to crises.” US officials have said it is a US “priority” to help the GCC build a “regional missile defence architecture” against what they see as a looming ballistic missile threat from Iran.
Clinton said she looked “forward to discussing the wide range of common strategic concerns, including preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and curbing its interference in the affairs of its neighbours.” Western countries fear Iran’s uranium enrichment programme conceals plans to build a nuclear bomb, but Tehran insists it is only for peaceful purposes.
US Central Command chief General James Mattis has meanwhile warned that Iran was sending support, including “weapons, not just money” to Huthi rebels in northern Yemen, and trying to “influence the non- Huthi tribes” as well.
Yemen neighbours the six Gulf states.
The United States also suspects Iran is sending arms to Assad’s regime to help him crush a prodemocracy movement that UN officials estimate has cost more than 9,000 lives since it erupted in March last year.
Clinton also looked forward to talks with the GCC on “ending the bloodshed in Syria and supporting the peaceful transitions underway in North Africa and across the region, and fully integrating Iraq into regional affairs.” In Clinton’s talks here on Friday with King Abdullah and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, the two sides discussed ways to tighten the sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme, another State Department official said.
“They talked about keeping the global oil supply strong, and the essential role Saudi Arabia plays in that,” the official said.