World

Gulf Arabs To Kerry: We Want Iran Cooperation, Not Meddling

| by Reuters

Iran's nuclear deal should bring stability and "good neighborliness" rather than interference, Gulf Arab states told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday as they began talks on the merits of its historic accord with world powers.

Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid al-Attiyah, welcoming Kerry to Qatar for the talks with the six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), said the alliance wanted to spare the region "from any dangers and threats from nuclear weapons".

This should be done by authorizing the use of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes in line with international rules, he said, speaking for the GCC as host of the meeting.

"We look forward with hope to the nuclear agreement ... leading to the preservation of security and stability in the region, and we emphasize the importance of cooperation with Iran based on principles of good neighborliness, non-interference in internal affairs and solving disputes peacefully."

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Most Gulf Arab states are worried that Iran's July 14 accord with the United States and other powers will hasten detente between Tehran and Washington and embolden the Islamic republic to support paramilitary allies in the region.

Last month, six world powers agreed to lift sanctions on Iran in return for curbs on its nuclear program, which the West suspects was aimed at developing an atomic bomb but which Tehran says is for peaceful energy only.

Speaking in Egypt on Sunday, Kerry said the United States had labeled Iran the world's number-one state sponsor of terror, but this was precisely why it was so important to ensure Tehran did not obtain a nuclear weapon.

"There can be absolutely no question that if the Vienna plan is fully implemented, it will make Egypt and all the countries of this region safer than they otherwise would be or were," he said. Kerry added that he would discuss ways to ensure the future security of the region in Doha.

In the Qatari capital, Kerry was to meet members of the Gulf Cooperation Council that groups Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman as well as Qatar.

RUSSIAN GO-BETWEEN ROLE

He will also hold trilateral talks with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir that U.S. officials say will focus on the war in Syria.

Russia has been trying to bring about rapprochement between the Syrian government and regional states including Saudi Arabia and Turkey to forge an alliance to fight Islamic State militants who have taken large amounts of territory in Syria's civil war.

Kerry said last month he planned to discuss with Lavrov combating Islamic State and the role Iran could play.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote an article published in several Arab newspapers to coincide with the talks, urging Gulf countries to work with Iran to counter a wave on instability in the Middle East.

"We must all accept the fact that the era of zero-sum games is over, and we all win or lose together," he wrote in Arabic, backing up his statement with passages from the Koran.

Nonetheless, Iran remains in a struggle with Saudi Arabia and its allies for regional primacy. A deadly bombing in Bahrain last week, which the government linked to Iran, was taken by many as a sign Tehran cannot be trusted.

U.S. officials say Kerry's diplomatic outreach in Doha is a follow-up to a summit with Gulf Arab leaders that was called by President Barack Obama at Camp David in May and was snubbed by the leaders of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

At that meeting Obama replied to worries among Gulf states about the Iran deal by pledging to back them against any "external attack". He stopped short of offering a formal defense treaty that some Gulf states wanted. Instead he announced more modest measures, including integrating ballistic missile defense systems and beefing up cyber and maritime security.

(By David Brunnstrom and Noah Browning; Editing by William Maclean and Mark Heinrich)