Iran's Zarif urges Saudi Arabia to work jointly for 'stability'

AFP , Monday 2 Dec 2013

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (Photo: Reuters)

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif appealed Monday to Saudi Arabia to work together with his government toward achieving regional "stability", in remarks to AFP during a visit to Oman.

"I believe that our relations with Saudi Arabia should expand as we consider Saudi Arabia as an extremely important country in the region and the Islamic world," Zarif said.

"We believe that Iran and Saudi Arabia should work together in order to promote peace and stability in the region."

Zarif's remarks came during a stopover in Muscat as part of a tour he began in Kuwait aimed at assuring Gulf Arab states that a deal Tehran secured with the West on its nuclear programme is in their interest.

The minister is expected to arrive in Qatar later Monday for an unscheduled visit, an Iranian diplomat in Doha told AFP.

"He will arrive in Doha on Monday and will hold talks with Qatari officials," the source said.

Zarif on Monday voiced again his hopes to "soon" visit Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia, Iran's longtime arch-foe across the Gulf, and the United Arab Emirates.

"I am ready to go to Saudi Arabia, but it is just a matter of being able to arrange a mutually convenient time. I will visit it soon inshallah (God willing)."

World powers, Arab states of the Gulf, and Israel suspect Tehran's nuclear ambitions include acquiring a nuclear weapon, a charge Iran vehemently denies.

The nuclear deal reached in Geneva on November 24 was welcomed by the Sunni-ruled Gulf Arab states, which have long been concerned about Shiite Iran's regional ambitions.

But Gulf Cooperation Council foreign ministers, meeting in Kuwait City last week, also hoped the interim deal would lead to a permanent agreement on Iran's nuclear programme.

The GCC consists of energy-rich Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.

After his election in July, Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said he hoped to improve relations with neighbouring countries, especially Gulf states.

Zarif said in Kuwait City that Iran was looking to open a new page in relations with the Gulf.

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