Gulf states ‘must have role in new US-Iran talks:’ Saudi foreign minister

Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud speaks during an interview on the sidelines of the Manama Dialogue security conference in the Bahraini capital on December 5, 2020. (AFP / Mazen Mahdi)
Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud speaks during an interview on the sidelines of the Manama Dialogue security conference in the Bahraini capital on Dec. 5, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 06 December 2020

Gulf states ‘must have role in new US-Iran talks:’ Saudi foreign minister

Gulf states ‘must have role in new US-Iran talks:’ Saudi foreign minister
  • Saudi foreign minister hints at resolution to dispute with Qatar

LONDON: Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states must play a key role in any talks between the US and Iran to revive the deal to curb Tehran’s nuclear program, the Kingdom’s foreign minister said on Saturday.

Joe Biden has indicated that when he takes office as US president next month he will return to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), from which Donald Trump withdrew in 2018.

“Primarily what we expect is that we are fully consulted, that we and our regional friends are fully consulted vis a vis the negotiations with Iran,” Prince Faisal bin Farhan said at the Manama Dialogue security conference in Bahrain. “The only way toward reaching an agreement that is sustainable is through such consultation.

“I think we’ve seen as a result of the after-effects of the JCPOA that not involving regional countries results in a build-up of mistrust and neglect of the issues of real concern and of real effect on regional security.”

Prince Faisal said any new agreement would have to be an improvement on the JCPOA. “I don’t know about a revived JCPOA, although one may look to a JCPOA-plus-plus, something well beyond the JCPOA,” he said.
“Because reviving the JCPOA as it exists now will only bring us to the point where we were, which is a deficient agreement that doesn’t address the full issues.”

Earlier, Prince Faisal hinted at an imminent resolution to the diplomatic dispute with Qatar. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain severed trade, travel and diplomatic ties with Doha in June 2017 over its closeness to Iran and funding of Islamist terrorism.

A breakthrough would come “soon,” the minister said. “We are in full coordination with our partners in this process and the prospects that we see are very positive toward a final agreement,” he said.

The political analyst Hamdan Al-Shehri told Arab News that Iran had been taking advantage of Qatar, and would continue to do so unless Doha came to an agreement with the Anti-Terror Quartet.

“First and foremost, Qatar needs to get back to being part of the group in order to play its part in safeguarding the region,” Al-Shehri said. “Qatar’s vulnerable position due to its entanglement with Iran is either out of fear or a show of bold bluntness, both of which came with a cost.”

Saudi Arabia was not responsible for tension with Iran, Al-Shehri said. “We don’t have ballistic missiles, we don’t have proxies across the region, we don’t have a nuclear weapons program. The problem is with the other party involved.

“The structure of power in Iran isn’t political, its ideological, and Iran won’t relent unless by extreme international pressure, which will then pressure them to rethink their priorities and strategies.”

Al-Shehri said it was important that the Gulf states were part of any negotiations regarding the future of Iran’s arms programs because they were the most susceptible to threats from these programs, and also to spare the region from an arms race.

“The messages to Iran are clear, there’s no way out unless through negotiation,” he said. “There are reportsthat the Trump administration will impose new sanctions before the next president takes office. Prince Faisal bin Farhan’s message to the world and Iran is clear, Riyadh is willing to re-engage in talks with Tehran, a credible effort at diplomacy.

“The Iranian regime’s regional aggression is undiminished, and Qatar is in a very difficult position now with a possible reconciliation led by the emir of Kuwait. Saudi Arabia’s keenness on solidarity and unity will put Tehran in a difficult position because it needs Qatar’s support, either financially or by continuing to boost its ideology and propaganda on Al Jazeera.”

The Kingdom believed that dialogue was the optimal solution for a dispute so that it did not develop into a conflict political analyst Mubarak Al-Ati told Arab News.

“The foreign minister’s statements stressed that the Kingdom will continue to exert great efforts to contain any differences,” he said.

“The Kingdom’s response to Kuwait’s mediation is based on the belief that continuing the Gulf dispute will only benefit the enemies of Arabs. The solution should come from within the Gulf states.

“Saudi Arabia and Kuwait worked together for rapprochement between the Anti-Terror Quartet and Qatar to contain the crisis and solve it diplomatically through a real solution that ensures the crisis never occurs again.”