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Patrick W. Ryan | SUSRIS
Riyadh – Jan. 23, 2016 — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in the Saudi capital today for meetings with King Salman and officials, and a session with GCC foreign ministers at a time that Kerry said was, “a moment with a number of opportunities and choices that face us.” He said, “The events of the last weeks really underscore how fast events are moving and how active and prepared we have to be on a lot of different fronts simultaneously.”
Kerry traveled to Saudi Arabia from Switzerland where he met with Russian foreign minister Lavrov on January 20th to discuss Syria and Ukraine, and participated in the World Economic Forum at Davos on January 21-22, 2016.
Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir held a press conference following the US-GCC ministerial and before meetings with King Salman and Saudi officials. Jubeir opened with comments about the GCC meeting, the 6th US-GCC ministerial, which focused on the US-GCC relationship in general, as well as regional challenges in Syria and Yemen and confrontation with Iran.
Kerry said the US-GCC meeting was a follow on to a “process that started with the Camp David” summit in May 2015 that continued with a meeting in Doha and another on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session on September 30. The current framework for US-GCC ministerial consultations began in March 2012.
Kerry said, “I think that the first thing that we agreed on today, overwhelmingly, is the importance of the partnership between the United States and the GCC, and we remain as committed to the success and continued engagement of that partnership.”
The bilateral meetings with King Salman and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman were expected to focus on the same range of subjects as the US-GCC ministerial session. Kerry was also planning to discuss lessening of tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran. A senior State Department official said that the United States’ side understood the Saudi anger over the attacks on their facilities in Iran adding that, “[We] also understand that lessening tensions is an important objective not only for the United States but for the region. It is important. And one of the things that we think is relatively positive about this whole episode is that both the Saudis and the Iranians have made it clear that despite their own challenges in their bilateral relationship, neither one wants to see this spill over into affecting issues like the Syrian negotiations.”
Secretary Kerry will meet tomorrow with Saudi and American business leaders who are assembled in Riyadh for the inaugural US-Saudi CEO Summit, a cooperative effort between the Saudi Chambers (CSC) and the American Chamber of Commerce to advance bilateral economic interests. He then travels from Riyadh to Laos, Cambodia and Beijing before returning to Washington, DC.
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