US, Saudi Arabia, UAE, UK release joint statement urging ‘diplomatic solutions’ on Iran

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with Mohamed ben Zayed Al-Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, in Abu Dhabi on June 24, 2019. US, UK, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have jointly called for “diplomatic solutions” to ease soaring tensions with Iran. (AFP)
Updated 25 June 2019

US, Saudi Arabia, UAE, UK release joint statement urging ‘diplomatic solutions’ on Iran

  • Statement released by the US on Monday as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Saudi Arabian and Emirati leaders
  • ‘We call on Iran to halt any further actions which threaten regional stability, and urge diplomatic solutions to de-escalate tensions’

LONDON: The United States, Britain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have jointly called for “diplomatic solutions” to ease soaring tensions with Iran.
“We call on Iran to halt any further actions which threaten regional stability, and urge diplomatic solutions to de-escalate tensions,” said the statement released by the US on Monday as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Saudi Arabian and Emirati leaders.
The four countries renewed concern about an attack by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi rebels on a civilian airport in southern Saudi Arabia and recent sabotage of ships which Washington blamed on Iran.
“These attacks threaten the international waterways that we all rely on for shipping. Ships and their crews must be allowed to pass through international waters safely,” the four countries said of the Gulf incidents.
“We further note with concern the recent escalation in Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia using Iranian made and facilitated missiles and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. In particular, we condemn the Houthi attack on Abha civilian airport on 12 June, which injured 26 civilians.
“We express full support for Saudi Arabia and call for an immediate end to such attacks by the Iranian-backed Houthis.”
The International Energy Agency (IEA) said it is very concerned about the impact that tensions in the Middle East may have on global energy security and will act if there is any physical disruption to supplies, its executive director said on Monday.
Oil prices rose on Monday, extending large gains last week that were prompted by tensions between the United States and Iran, although concerns about the possibility of weakening demand kept a lid on gains.
Strong growth in the price of US shale oil has also contained stronger increases, the IEA’s Fatih Birol added on Monday.
“We are monitoring the situation very closely and are very worried. In case of physical disruption, we are ready to act in an appropriate way,” Birol told a news conference at the IEA’s annual energy efficiency conference in Dublin.
Last week, benchmark Brent crude climbed 5 percent and US crude surged 10 percent after Iran shot down the US drone.
Iran denies any role in the tanker attacks.
Birol said earlier this month that the attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman, which stoked concern of reduced flows of crude on one of the world’s key shipping routes, threatened global energy security.
However on Monday he cited the strength of US shale oil prices for supporting the market, similar to the buffer it provided through US sanctions imposed on oil exporters Iran and Venezuela.
“This would definitely have bad implications for the global economy but despite those attacks, we have not seen a major impact on the prices and the main reason is United States shale oil prices are growing so strongly that there is a lot of oil in the markets now,” he said.
“It provides a ceiling on the price hikes which is very good news for consumers around the world.”


Erdogan hosts Putin, Rouhani for Syria summit

Updated 15 min 54 sec ago

Erdogan hosts Putin, Rouhani for Syria summit

  • Putin and Rouhani met Erdogan in Ankara for their fifth summit on the conflict since 2017
  • Iran and Russia have been staunch supporters of Syrian President Bashar Assad

ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan welcomed his Russian and Iranian counterparts on Monday for their latest summit on Syria, with attention focused on Damascus’s push on the last rebel-held bastion of Idlib.
Presidents Vladimir Putin and Hassan Rouhani met Erdogan in the Turkish capital Ankara for their fifth summit on the conflict since 2017.
Iran and Russia have been staunch supporters of Syrian President Bashar Assad, while Turkey has called for his ouster and backed opposition fighters.
But with Assad’s position looking increasingly secure, Turkey’s priority has shifted to preventing a mass influx of refugees from Idlib in Syria’s northwest.
Turkey is concerned over the steady advance of Syrian forces into the region, backed by Russian air power, despite a series of cease-fires.
Turkey has 12 observation posts in Idlib to enforce a buffer zone agreement struck a year ago with Russia to prevent a full-scale Syrian offensive.
But the posts look increasingly threatened, with one of them cut off from the rest of Idlib when Syrian forces advanced last month.
Russian air strikes have continued in the region despite the latest cease-fire between Ankara and Moscow on August 31.
“A large number of terrorists are still present in this zone... and fighters continue to fire on the positions of government forces,” Kremlin adviser Yuri Ushakov said on Friday.
The Turkish presidency said the leaders would discuss the latest developments in Syria as well as “ensuring the necessary conditions for the voluntary return of refugees and discussing the joint step to be taken in the period ahead with the aim of achieving a lasting political solution.”
Moscow is keen to see progress on establishing a constitutional committee to oversee the next stage of the political settlement in Syria.
That would give Putin a political win to add to the military victories, said Dareen Khalifa, senior Syria analyst at International Crisis Group.
But she said expectations should remain low.
Even if they can agree on who will form the committee, “this leaves a crux of issues unaddressed for the future of the political process including the regime’s ability and willingness to undertake any kind of political reform,” Khalifa told AFP.
High on everyone’s mind at the summit will be the weekend attack on Saudi oil facilities, which Washington has blamed on Tehran, deepening bilateral tensions and putting the region on the brink of further conflict.
The leaders are expected to hold one-on-one meetings before the three-way summit, the Kremlin said.
They will also hold a closing news conference with a view to presenting a joint declaration.
Iran has been a crucial actor on the battlefield in Syria, but has kept a lower profile in recent months. Its focus has been on removing Israeli and US involvement.
“A large part of Syria’s problems have been solved and some still remain, the most important of which is the Idlib region and east of Euphrates, as well as the Zionist regime (Israel)’s aggressions and America’s interventionist presence,” Rouhani said in a televised statement as he left Iran.
Meanwhile, Turkey has other concerns regarding Syria.
It has repeatedly threatened to launch a cross-border offensive against Syrian Kurdish forces, whom it sees as allied to Kurdish militants in its own territory.
That has strained Turkey’s relations with its NATO ally, the United States, which backs the Syrian Kurds as the main fighting force against the Daesh group (IS).
The US has vowed to work with Turkey to clear Kurdish forces away from its border, but Ankara says progress has so far been “cosmetic” and it could launch an operation into Syria by the end of this month.
Turkey has conducted previous offensives against Daesh in 2016 and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia in 2018.