Last Updated: Tue Nov 02, 2010 18:59 pm (KSA) 15:59 pm (GMT)

Saudi FM urges joint Arab strategy on Iran

Saudi wants “healthy” relations with Syria
Saudi wants “healthy” relations with Syria

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal called on Tuesday for a joint Arab strategy to deal with the "Iranian challenge" at a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in the Egyptian capital.

"In order to cement Arab reconciliation we need a common vision for issues that concern Arab security and deal with the Iranian challenge," including its nuclear drive, he said.

The relationship between Sunni-ruled Arab states in the Gulf, including oil powerhouse Saudi Arabia, and Shiite Iran has long been strained amid concern about Tehran's nuclear program.

 In order to cement Arab reconciliation we need a common vision for issues that concern Arab security and deal with the Iranian challenge 
Prince Saud al-Faisal

At the U.N. General Assembly last year, the Saudi prince urged Iran to comply with its nuclear obligations to spare the Middle East "devastating conflicts, futile arms races and serious environmental hazards."

The West fears Iran is secretly trying to build an atomic bomb but Tehran insists its nuclear drive is entirely peaceful and aimed at generating electricity for its growing population.

Last Thursday, Faisal said he wanted to build "healthy" new ties with Syria, two days after his Damascus counterpart paid a landmark visit to Riyadh delivering a message from the Syrian president.

"There will be other visits between Syria and Saudi Arabia," the prince told reporters following talks with his French counterpart Bernard Kouchner.

"We hope for reconciliation between Syria and Saudi Arabia on healthy foundations," he said.

"Divergences on Arab issues are behind us, buried," said the Saudi minister, who described Tuesday's visit by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem as "very positive."

Ties between Damascus and Riyadh nosedived after the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, a Saudi citizen and protégé, in a bombing widely blamed on Syria but denied by Damascus.

They were further strained by Israel's offensive against Hamas in Gaza in December and January. Syria sided with the Islamists alongside with Iran while Saudi Arabia joined Egypt in blocking any collective Arab show of solidarity.

Foreign ministers of the 22-member Arab League are meeting at the group's Cairo headquarters to discuss several issues including reconciliation moves by feuding Palestinian factions.

A decision expected on Wednesday by the International Criminal Court on whether to seek the arrest of Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir for alleged war crimes in Darfur is also expected to be discussed.

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