Kerry seeks to assure Gulf allies over Iran nuclear deal
August 03 2015 10:59 AM
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John Kerry, seen during a press conference in Cairo on Sunday, is due to meet his GCC counterparts in Doha on Monday.

 

AFP/Doha

US Secretary of State John Kerry meets his Gulf Arab counterparts for talks in Qatar on Monday as he attempts to ease the concerns of key allies over the Iran nuclear deal.

On the latest leg of a regional tour, Kerry is set to hold discussions with his six counterparts from the Gulf Cooperation Council in a bid to allay fears about Iran after the nuclear deal.

"This is an opportunity, really, for the secretary to do a deep dive with the GCC foreign ministers to try to respond to any remaining questions that they might have and hopefully to satisfy them and ensure that they're supporting our effort going forward," a State Department official said.

Gulf Arab states have raised concerns about Iran's regional ambitions following the recent accord in Vienna with the US and Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia.

While in Doha, Kerry is also expected to hold a three-way meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Saudi counterpart Adel bin Ahmed al-Jubeir, with discussions expected to centre on Syria.

"A key topic of discussion is expected to be the ongoing crisis in Syria," a senior State Department official said.

Kerry landed in Qatar on Sunday evening after a weekend visit to Egypt, where he also sought to assure his counterpart Sameh Shoukry and President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi that the landmark deal would bring more security to the Middle East.

"There can be absolutely no question that if the Vienna plan is fully implemented, it will make Egypt and all the countries of this region safer than they otherwise would be or were," Kerry told a joint news conference with Shoukry.

Suspicions on Iran

Egypt like other regional states remains suspicious of Iran, which has backed President Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria and Shia Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Kerry said the US recognised that "Iran is engaged in destabilising activities in the region - and that is why it is so important to ensure that Iran's nuclear programme remains wholly peaceful".

"If Iran is destabilising, it is far, far better to have an Iran that doesn't have a nuclear weapon than one that does," he said at the Cairo press conference.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in a televised address on Sunday that the July 14 nuclear agreement had created better prospects for faster solutions in Syria and Yemen, two of the Middle East's worst conflict zones.

"The final solution in Yemen is political, in Syria the final solution is political," he said. "The agreement will create a new atmosphere. The climate will be easier."

While in Cairo, Kerry held the first "strategic dialogue" with his Egyptian counterpart since 2009.

The US has been working to patch up troubled ties with Egypt, long a key Middle East ally, as Sisi battles an Islamic State group insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula.

Kerry's Middle East trip will not include Israel, one of Washington's closest allies and a fierce critic of the nuclear deal.

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