Kerry reassures Saudi of 'solid relationship' with US amid Iran detente

US Secretary of State John Kerry (left) shaking hands with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir at King Salman Regional Air Base in Riyadh on Jan 23, 2016.
US Secretary of State John Kerry (left) shaking hands with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir at King Salman Regional Air Base in Riyadh on Jan 23, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

RIYADH (AFP) - US Secretary of State John Kerry reassured Saudi Arabia on Sunday (Jan 24) of the "solid relationship" between both countries, even after the lifting of sanctions on the kingdom's regional rival Iran.

"We have as solid a relationship, as clear an alliance, and as strong a friendship with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia as we've ever had," Kerry said before departing from Riyadh.

“Nothing has changed because we worked to eliminate a nuclear weapon with a country in the region,” he added. “We will continue to work in the region with our friends and our allies.”

Kerry has long sought to calm concerns among Washington’s Gulf allies about the overtures to Iran, the world’s leading Shi'ite power whose relations with Sunni rival Saudi Arabia have worsened this month.

Saudi Arabia and some of its allies cut diplomatic ties with Iran after protesters there burned Riyadh’s embassy in Teheran and a consulate in Mashhad city.  

The violence broke out after the kingdom executed Saudi Shi'ite cleric Nimr al-Nimr, a driving force behind anti-government protests, as part of a group of 47 mostly Sunni Saudis sentenced to death for “terrorism”.

The kingdom and its Gulf neighbours perceive a lack of support from their traditional ally Washington, particularly in the face of what they see as Iran’s “interference” in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere.

The historic deal with Teheran – backed by the United States and five other major powers – led this month to the lifting of crippling economic sanctions on Iran in return for a scaling back of its nuclear capabilities.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told reporters Saturday that he did not see a “coming together” of the United States and Iran.

“Iran remains the world’s chief sponsor of terrorism,” Jubeir said.  “Overall I think the United States is very aware of the danger of Iran’s mischief and nefarious activities... I don’t believe the United States is under any illusion as to what type of government Iran is.”

Saudi Arabia and Iran support opposite sides in the Syria and Yemen wars.