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Kerry holds talks with Saudi leaders & GCC counterparts، Syria and Yemen on Agenda

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King Salman receives US Secretary of State John Kerry and his accompanying delegation in Jeddah, Thursday.
King Salman receives US Secretary of State John Kerry and his accompanying delegation in Jeddah, Thursday.
Saudi Gazette, 26 Aug. 2016-   King Salman on Thursday held crucial talks with the visiting US Secretary of State John Kerry. The talks covered bilateral cooperation in various fields between the Kingdom and the United States and the latest developments in the region. The talks also explored ways to further enhance relations between the two countries, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said.
Similar talks were also held during Kerry’s meetings with Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Naif, deputy premier and minister of interior; Deputy Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, second deputy premier and minister of defense, on Wednesday night. The talks also covered the latest regional and international developments and individual and collective efforts to resolve issues facing some countries in the Mideast region.
Sources in Kerry’s delegation claimed that the secretary of state also held talks with his Gulf counterparts and a British minister in Saudi Arabia on the conflicts in Yemen, Syria and Libya.
The coordination with Washington’s major Middle East allies came on the eve of Syria talks in Geneva between Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.
After the 30-minute meeting with King Salman, Kerry focussed on the conflict in Yemen with UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, Britain’s Middle East undersecretary Tobias Ellwood, and his Saudi and United Arab Emirates counterparts.
On Yemen, a senior State Department official said, Kerry “shared ideas and initiatives for getting the political discussions back on track and trying to get a political solution”.
The aim is also to put in place mechanisms for delivering desperately needed humanitarian aid to the impoverished country, he said.
“It’s not either-or. We want to get humanitarian access better ensured and at the same time we need a ceasefire in place. They go hand in hand but you need a reduction in violence,” the official said.
Saudi Arabia heads an Arab coalition that began air raids in March 2015 and later sent in ground forces to support Yemen’s internationally-recognized government after Iran-backed Houthis and their allies overran much of the country.
Saudi Arabia and other Arab states in the Gulf belong to a US-led military alliance battling Daesh (so-called IS) militant group which has seized large parts of Syria and Iraq.
The Kingdom also backs armed rebels fighting Bashar Al-Assad’s regime.
Kerry was to update regional allies on efforts to end the heavy bloodshed in Syria “because they do have influence” over opposition groups, the State Department official said.
John Kerry was due to head to Geneva to meet Lavrov.
The State Department official said Kerry’s talks with Saudi leaders also covered Libya, where a UN-backed Government of National Accord is challenged by a rival administration.
Kerry focussed on the same conflicts at a working lunch with ministers of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council which groups Saudi Arabia with its neighbors.
The talks came after their regional rival Iran sent four warships close to two US Navy guided missile destroyers in the Strait of Hormuz, according to American defense officials.
The USS Nitze shot warning flares, sounded its whistles and attempted unsuccessfully to communicate with the Iranian boats during Tuesday’s incident, the US Central Command said.
The encounter occurred in international waters of the strait, a vitally important choke point into the Gulf with Iran on one side and the UAE on the other.