Kerry says US-Saudi Arabia friendship stronger than ever

AP , Sunday 24 Jan 2016

Kerry, Jubeir
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir and US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) arrive for a joint press conference following a meeting with foreign ministers from the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council at King Salman airbase on January 23, 2016 in Riyadh. (Photo: AFP)

Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday that the US friendship with Saudi Arabia is stronger than ever and that the two will work together to try to end wars in Syria and Yemen.

"We have as solid a relationship, as clear an alliance and as strong a friendship with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia as we have ever had, and nothing has changed because we worked to eliminate a nuclear weapon with a country in the region," he said, referring to the Iran nuclear deal.

Kerry delivered the remarks to US Embassy employees a day after meeting with Saudi and other Gulf officials on a visit aimed at reassuring US allies who are skeptical about the agreement.

Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries have long viewed Iran as a regional menace, and Riyadh and Tehran back opposite sides in the wars in Syria and Yemen.

The nuclear deal, which was implemented a week ago after the UN certified that Iran had curbed its nuclear activities, lifted crippling sanctions on Tehran and unfroze billions of dollars in assets.

"Doing an agreement to get rid of a nuclear weapon doesn't do away with the other issues that are still of concern, so we will continue to work in the region with our friends and our allies," Kerry said.

He said he had discussed "new ideas" to bring peace to Yemen, where the Saudi-backed government is battling Iran-supported Shia rebels.

He added that Saudi Arabia is "committed to work with us in the efforts to try to stabilize Syria and calm down this hyped-up, exploited division between Sunni and Shia."

Saudi Arabia backs the Sunni-dominated Syrian rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad, a close ally of Iran who hails from Syria's Alawite minority, an offshoot of Shia Islam.

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