US vows to stand with GCC against external threats

Hezbollah has 80,000-strong missile stockpile, US secretary of state alleges from Riyadh

US vows to stand with GCC against external threats

World Bulletin / News Desk

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday said that Washington understood the Gulf States’ concern regarding the recent nuclear deal with Iran, adding that the U.S. was now cooperating with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) with a view to building a regional missile defense system.

Kerry made the remarks at a joint press conference with Saudi counterpart Adel al-Jubeir in Saudi capital Riyadh, held following a joint ministerial meeting between the U.S. and the Gulf States.

Kerry said at the press conference: "We have memorandums of understanding and agreements with all the Gulf States; military bases in some [Gulf] countries; and military exchanges. We also have training programs [in the Gulf States] in the fields of intelligence and security."

He went on to say that "other aspects will be provided, such as working on building a missile defense system".

"Relations between the U.S. and the GCC are based on interest and mutual defense; I think there is no doubt among the Gulf States… that the U.S. will stand with the Gulf States against any external threat," Kerry said.

Kerry stressed that "negotiations [over Iran’s nuclear program] aimed to achieve a primary goal, which is to make the [Middle East] region free of… nuclear weapons."

Lebanon’s Hezbollah group "has 70,000 or 80,000 missiles", asserted Kerry, who went on to ask: "What is the need for having this number of missiles by Hezbollah? Most of these weapons came from Iran via Damascus; this is a concern that we share with the Gulf States."

With regard to Syria, Kerry said: "We have reached an understanding to hold a first round of negotiations. There is a meeting scheduled for the ["Friends of Syria"] group after which negotiations will be held to address issues that require agreement."

Kerry arrived in Riyadh on Saturday for his first visit to the Gulf since the nuclear deal with Iran came into effect earlier this month.

The U.S. and EU lifted international sanctions on Iran on Jan. 16 following an announcement by the International Atomic Energy Agency that Tehran had complied with its nuclear-related obligations in line with the agreement.

The P5+1 grouping -- which includes China, France, Russia, the U.K., the U.S., Germany, the EU -- signed a nuclear framework deal with Iran in July of last year.

Relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran reached a crisis point following Riyadh’s declaration on Jan. 3 that it had cut ties with Tehran after its diplomatic missions in Iran were attacked by Iranian protesters.

The attacks came following the execution by Saudi authorities one day earlier of prominent Shia cleric Nimr Baqir al-Nimr.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 24 Ocak 2016, 09:12