Syria tragedy ‘must end’

Updated 12 December 2013
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Syria tragedy ‘must end’

Kuwait Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah opened the GCC summit here on Tuesday with a call for an end to the “human catastrophe” in Syria.
He issued the plea in the presence of Ahmad Jarba, leader of the main opposition Syrian National Coalition. Jarba addressed the summit and called for urgent help from GCC states.
“The human catastrophe continues to unfold in Syria ... We need to double our efforts and work with the international community, especially the UN Security Council, to put an end to this human tragedy,” Sheikh Sabah said.
Crown Prince Salman, deputy premier and minister of defense, who is leading the Saudi delegation, reiterated the Kingdom’s call to transform the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council into a powerful Gulf union.
“I am confident that the wisdom of Sheikh Sabah and other GCC leaders will have a big impact in making the summit a big success,” the crown prince said in an arrival statement.
He hoped that the summit’s resolutions would strengthen the organization and achieve its objectives, realizing the hopes and aspirations of GCC citizens through greater integration by becoming a union.
GCC Secretary-General Abdullatif Al-Zayani said consultations on the union are focused on achieving the objectives of the proposed union.
The GCC leaders were to discuss during the two-day summit a range of issues including the situation in Syria, ties with Iran and boosting economic cooperation between their countries.

Ties between GCC states and neighboring Iran have come under the spotlight after a landmark deal was reached last month between Tehran and world powers over its disputed nuclear program.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif last week toured four GCC countries, but not Saudi Arabia or Bahrain. Zarif tried to assure Gulf states that the nuclear deal was not at their expense and called for turning a new page in relations.
In his speech, Sheikh Sabah said the Gulf states had “expressed their satisfaction with the interim Geneva deal ... hoping it would succeed and lead to an everlasting agreement that would make the region peaceful.”
The summit is being staged amid differences over a proposal to upgrade the GCC into a confederation, a move Oman has publicly rejected. Omani Foreign Minister Yussef bin Alawi threatened at the weekend that Muscat would pull out of the alliance if a union was announced, while Saudi Arabia, solidly backed by Bahrain, insisted it was time to move ahead.
Kuwait’s State Minister for Cabinet Affairs Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah Al-Sabah told reporters talks over the union were still ongoing.
“When a consensus is reached, a special summit will be convened in Riyadh to make the announcement,” he said, ruling out a major declaration at the Kuwait meeting.
Details on the confederation proposed by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah during the GCC summit in 2011 have not been disclosed.
“Oman does not want to be a part of any measure that might be seen as directed against Iran,” Emirati political analyst Abdulkhaleq Abdullah told AFP. Muscat enjoys good relations with Tehran.
The GCC summit is also due to discuss proposed peace talks on the Syrian conflict in Geneva as well as a Kuwait 2 donors conference, both to be held next month.
Kuwait’s Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Khaled Jarallah said the GCC summit would back taking part in the so-called Geneva 2 talks scheduled for Jan. 22 at which a transitional government in Syria is due to be discussed.
Jarallah told the official KUNA news agency on Tuesday that the summit would approve setting up a unified GCC military command.


Iran faces ‘strongest sanctions in history’

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Updated 48 min 20 sec ago
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Iran faces ‘strongest sanctions in history’

  • US Secretary of State laid out Trump administration’s strategy for constraining Iran’s nuclear program
  • US threatens "strongest sanctions in history" if Iranian government does not change course

WASHINGTON: The US told Iran on Monday to drop its nuclear ambitions and pull out of the Syrian civil war in a list of demands that marked a new hard-line against Tehran and prompted an Iranian official to warn that Washington seeks regime change.

Weeks after US President Donald Trump pulled out of an international nuclear deal with Iran, his administration threatened to impose “the strongest sanctions in history,” setting Washington and Tehran on a deeper course of confrontation.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanded sweeping changes that would force Iran effectively to reverse years of its foreign policies.

“The sting of sanctions will only grow more painful if the regime does not change course from the unacceptable and unproductive path it has chosen for itself and the people of Iran,” Pompeo said in his first major speech since becoming secretary of state.

“These will be the strongest sanctions in history by the time we are done,” he added.

Pompeo took aim at Iran’s policy of expanding its influence in the Middle East through support for proxy armed groups in countries such as Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.

He warned that the US would “crush” Iranian operatives and allies abroad and told Tehran to pull out forces under its command from the Syrian civil war where they back President Bashar Assad.

Iran is unlikely to accede to the US demands. Tension between the two countries has grown notably since Trump this month withdrew from the 2015 nuclear agreement aimed at preventing Tehran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Pompeo warned that if Iran fully resumed its nuclear program Washington would be ready to respond and said the administration would hold companies doing prohibited business in Iran to account.

“Our demands on Iran are not unreasonable: Give up your program,” Pompeo said, “Should they choose to go back, should they begin to enrich, we are fully prepared to respond to that as well,” he said, declining to elaborate.

Pompeo said if Iran made major changes, the US was prepared to ease sanctions, re-establish full diplomatic and commercial relations and support the country’s re-integration into the international economic system.

The speech did not explicitly call for regime change but Pompeo repeatedly urged the Iranian people not to put up with their leaders, specifically naming President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

“At the end of the day the Iranian people will get to make a choice about their leadership. If they make the decision quickly, that would be wonderful, if they choose not to do so we will stay hard at this until we achieve the outcomes I set forward,” said Pompeo.