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Kerry Hails Disgruntled Saudi Arabia as Important U.S. Ally

U.S. Secretary of State Kerry is greeted by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal, in Riyadh

Riyadh – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry praised Saudi Arabia as a “very, very important” ally on Monday as he visited the Gulf kingdom on a mission to soothe strains in the relationship over U.S. policy on Iran, Syria and the Palestinian issue. Kerry, touring the region after a flurry of signals from the kingdom that it dislikes Washington’s recent approach, met foreign minister Prince Saud al-Faisal on Monday morning and later began talks with King Abdullah.

“We have very important things to talk about to make sure the Saudi-U.S. relationship is on track, rolling forward and doing things that we need to accomplish,” Kerry said in remarks to U.S. Embassy staff. Washington’s relationship with the Saudis was crucial as the region faced changes and challenges from the transition in Egypt to civil war in Syria.

“The Saudis are very, very important to all of us. The Saudis are really the senior player in the Arab world together with Egypt,” he said. Saudi Arabia, Washington’s main Arab ally, is angry over what is sees as a weak foreign policy on the part of the Obama administration which has allowed Israel to continue building settlements in the Palestinian territories and conflict to persist in Syria.

Saudi concerns are also partly founded on a fear that President Barack Obama’s moves to reduce tensions with Iran will give Riyadh’s main regional adversary an opportunity to extend its influence in Arab countries. Speaking before his meeting with the foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, Kerry reiterated that the United States was determined Iran would not get a nuclear weapon. Iran says it is enriching uranium only for civilian energy purposes.

Kerry’s visit is his first since the Saudi intelligence chief warned last month of a “shift away” from Washington and said Riyadh’s abdication of its seat on the U.N. Security Council was a message for the United States. (Reuters)

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