US remains invested in Gulf partnerships, Blinken tells diplomats

Published June 8, 2023
SAUDI Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Jeddah 
on Wednesday.—AFP
SAUDI Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Jeddah on Wednesday.—AFP

RIYADH: The United States remains committed to its Gulf Arab partners, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Gulf diplomats in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, at a time of rapidly shifting regional alliances.

Blinken spoke during a Gulf Cooperation Council ministerial meeting in the capital Riyadh following talks with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan and the kingdom’s de-facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

“The United States is in this region to say we remain deeply invested in partnering with all of you,” Blinken said at the opening of the US-GCC ministerial meeting on strategic partnership.

“The GCC is the core of our vision for a Middle East that is more stable, more secure, more prosperous,” he added.

The meetings came a day after Blinken flew into Jeddah, kickstarting a visit aimed at boosting ties with ally Saudi Arabia, which has begun forging closer relations with Washington’s rivals.

Relations between the decades-old allies have been strained in recent times, mainly over human rights and oil, after US pleas for help in bringing down skyrocketing prices last year were dismissed.

The three-day visit is Blinken’s first since the kingdom restored diplomatic ties with Iran, which the West considers a pariah over its contested nuclear activities and involvement in regional conflicts.

On Tuesday, the day Blinken arrived, Iran reopened its embassy in Riyadh after a seven-year closure, with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Alireza Bigdeli hailing a “new era” in ties.

On the same day, Prince Mohammed hosted Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, the head of a fellow oil power who has long sparred with Washington.

Last month, in a major shift, Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad attended an Arab League summit in Jeddah, his first since Syria’s membership was suspended at the start of its 12-year civil war. Washington criticised the decision to invite Assad.

‘Open, candid discussion’

Wednesday’s meeting at the GCC headquarters in Riyadh was attended by Qatar’s prime minister among other leading Gulf officials.

On the agenda were key regional issues, including conflicts in Yemen, Sudan, Syria and the Palestinian territories.

“Together, we are working to achieve a... resolution to the conflict in Yemen,” and to “continue to counter Iran’s destabilising behaviour,” including recent seizures of tankers in international waters, Blinken told the GCC ministers.

“We are determined to find a political solution in Syria that maintains its unity and sovereignty and meets the aspirations of its people,” he added.

Published in Dawn, June 8th, 2023

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