JEDDAH: Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir and US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook on Monday called on the international community to extend a UN embargo on sales of weapons to Iran to prevent any expansion of the nation’s state-sponsored terrorism.
Speaking during a joint press conference in Riyadh, Al-Jubeir said Saudi and US policies on Iran are identical.
“We both see Iran as a grave danger not only to regional stability, but international stability,” he said.
“We believe that Iran is the chief sponsor of terrorism and that the international community has to be more firm in dealing with the Iranians and their proxies.”
To illustrate the threat, the Arab Coalition displayed weapons, including drones and missiles, believed to have been supplied by Iran to Houthi militias in Yemen, which were used in cross-border attacks on Saudi cities.
Iran-backed Houthis have carried out 1,659 attacks on Saudi Arabia in the past five years, using a variety of weapons, including 318 ballistic missiles, 371 drones, 64 explosive boats and 153 naval mines. The attacks are designed to threaten and target civilians, harm the global economy and disrupt shipping in violation of international and humanitarian laws, the coalition said.
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Al-Jubeir said a shipment of weapons from Iran bound for Houthi militias was seized off the Yemeni coast on Sunday. It is unlikely to be the last shipment, he added, and so the international community must extend the embargo to limit Iran’s ability to supply weapons.
The UN embargo, which imposed 13 years ago, is due to expire in October. Adopted under UN Resolution 1747, which tightened sanctions in response to Tehran’s refusal to halt its nuclear program, it prohibits Iran from moving conventional weapons beyond its borders.
Al-Jubeir said that Tehran continues to supply terrorist groups with weapons despite the embargo, and if it is lifted Iran will become even more aggressive and disruptive.
US envoy Hook agreed, saying: “The weapons that we see here today ... are all the evidence we need that the arms embargo on Iran must not be lifted. We need to ensure that Iran has a harder time spreading deadly weapons.
“This is a fraction of the kind of deadly arms that have made their way not only here to Saudi Arabia, but around the Middle East, so this is the right time for the Security Council to do the right and necessary thing.”
Both officials agreed that the international community must put strong pressure on Tehran to abide by international laws, cease its support of terrorism, stop dealing with criminal organizations and drug cartels, and halt the killing of innocent people.
They added that Washington and Riyadh are working closely to mobilize international allies in an attempt to end this threat posed by Iran to the international community. Al-Jubeir said that this threat extends beyond the Gulf region to Europe, South America and Asia.
“We both wish for nothing more than Iran to be a normal country that lives in the international community the way other countries do, respecting international law and the sovereignty of other states, not interfering in their internal affairs, and that it (ends) its ballistic missile and terrorism programs,” he added.
The minister said that the Iranian regime grows more ideological and aggressive with every passing year, increasing its interference in the affairs of other countries at the cost of innocent lives.
Hook said that the five permanent members of the UN Security Council — the US, the UK, China, France and Russia — have a shared interest in ensuring the Middle East is more peaceful and stable, and that Iran never acquires the ability to build a nuclear weapon. He is hopeful and optimistic, therefore, that they will make the right decision regarding the arms embargo on national security grounds.
He added that the Iranian regime had exploited the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the so-called Iran nuclear deal, as a cover to further its expansionist and sectarian foreign policies. US President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the agreement in May 2018.
However, the regime is increasingly facing rejection, especially in Iraq and Lebanon, and even within its own borders, Hook said.
“Iran faced the worst wave of protests in the past 41 years last November,” he said.
“The regime responded to the demonstrations by killing 1,500 people, injuring thousands and arresting between 8,000 and 10,000 people.”
If the arms embargo expires, Iran will acquire new technologies and step up exports to its proxies in the region, he added.
Hook also praised Saudi Arabia’s prominent humanitarian role in Yemen, compared with Iran’s complicity in the humanitarian catastrophe afflicting the war-torn country.
Hook also met with the Kingdom's deputy defense minister Prince Khalid bin Salman, and they discussed the bilateral relations between the two countries and stressed the importance in preserving peace and security in the region and addressing the destabilizing hostile activities of Iran.
Talking about the recent attacks on the Kingdom from Houthi rockets and drones, Prince Khalid reiterated Saudi Arabia's support for US efforts to stop all malicious Iranian activities, repeated violations, and terrorist and subversive acts in the region.