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Saudi Arabia Encourages Iran to Engage Positively in the Region

Saudi Arabia Encourages Iran to Engage Positively in the Region

Friday, 15 October, 2021 - 17:30
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah. (SPA)

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah said on Friday that Iran’s acceleration of its nuclear activities is putting the world in “a very dangerous place” amid efforts to bring Tehran back into a 2015 nuclear deal.

Speaking at a news conference in Washington a day after meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Prince Faisal called for a “quick suspension” of Iranian activities in violation of the agreement under which Iran curbed its nuclear program in return for economic sanctions relief.

He also urged a “quick resumption” of indirect talks between the United States and Iran.

“I think we are in a very dangerous place. The fact that we continue to see acceleration of those activities ... leads to the devaluation of the JCPOA,” he said, using the initials of the agreement formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

On a “plan B” and the options at Washington’s disposal should the talks hit a setback, Prince Faisal said: “It is important for all options to be on the table. Necessary tools should also be available to bring Tehran to the negotiations table to discuss the nuclear issue and regional affairs of interest.”

Saudi Arabia, continued Prince Faisal, encourages the resumption of nuclear negotiations “as soon as possible.” He urged the need to find a long-term path that prevents Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, saying the Kingdom believes in the need to keep the Middle East devoid of such arms.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, who took office in August, has so far refused to resume the indirect talks in Vienna. US President Joe Biden’s administration wants to negotiate a return to compliance with the deal after his predecessor Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement in 2018 and re-imposed sanctions, after which Iran resumed building its stockpile of enriched uranium.

“We have started a dialogue with Iran,” Prince Faisal said, referring to four rounds of talks that the two countries began holding in 2020 that focused primarily on the conflict in Yemen.

“These interactions, while cordial, have been exploratory in nature and have not reached a state where we can say that we’ve made substantial progress.”

“We are committed to continuing these discussions and finding a road to move forward. Our vision for the region aims to achieve prosperity and stability. We hope that Iran shares this view,” said Prince Faisal.

“This falls in favor of the region, Iran and the Iranian people so that prosperity and development can be achieved and to encourage investment in Iran’s future,” he remarked.

Moreover, he said the talks with Tehran have not addressed its resumption of the Vienna negotiations.

“We encourage Iran to engage positively with the international community and regional neighbors to address all concerns,” he stressed.

On his trip to Washington, the FM also met with Robert Malley, the US special envoy for Iran affairs.

Prince Faisal said Iran topped the agenda of his talks with Blinken and Malley.

Lebanon crisis

At the news conference, Prince Faisal also discussed the political crisis in Lebanon, where he said the events of the past two days show the need for “real serious change” from the country’s leaders.

Saudi Arabia is “certainly worried” about the political, economic situation in Lebanon and it requires action “now”, he stated.

Tensions over a probe into last year’s massive blast in Beirut burst into the worst street violence in more than a decade on Thursday.

On Yemen, Prince Faisal said the international community “needs to put much more pressure” on the Iran-backed Houthis militias to accept the Saudi ceasefire proposal.

In Afghanistan, Prince Faisal said, the Taliban rulers should take the “path of national reconciliation” and bring together all elements of Afghan society, echoing calls by Western leaders for an inclusive government in the country where a US-backed government collapsed in August as American and other foreign forces were withdrawing.

Asked about whether the United States is pressing for an acceleration in oil production by OPEC, Russia and others known as OPEC+, bin Farhan sidestepped the question by saying Saudi Arabia is “committed to a balanced energy market, a balanced oil market.”

Saudi Arabia is managing the challenges to the global energy market posed by the COVID-19 pandemic “in a way that provides stability and serves the interests of producers and consumers,” Prince Faisal added.

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