Gulf states voice concern over Iran’s missile programme

Gulf Arab foreign ministers urged world powers to secure a nuclear deal with stronger restrictions and a longer duration and to “link it with practical steps to build trust” in order to prevent an arms race and further conflict in the region.
Thursday 17/06/2021
Foreign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) meet in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, June 16, 2021. (AFP)
Foreign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) meet in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, June 16, 2021. (AFP)

DUBAI – Gulf Arab states said on Wednesday that it would be dangerous to separate  the global powers’ nuclear deal with Iran from Tehran’s missile programme and “destabilising” behaviour and reiterated a call that they be included in the negotiations.

World powers and Iran entered a sixth round of talks in Vienna on Saturday to revive the 2015 nuclear pact which Saudi Arabia and its allies opposed for not tackling their wider concerns and which the United States abandoned in 2018.

Tehran has opposed any attempt to add other issues to the deal, under which it agreed to curbs on its nuclear programme in return for the lifting of international sanctions. US President Joe Biden wants to restore the deal abandoned by his predecessor Donald Trump.

Gulf Arab foreign ministers urged the world powers to secure a deal with stronger restrictions and a longer duration and to “link it with practical steps to build trust” in order to p

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revent an arms race and further conflict in the region.

In a statement following a meeting in Riyadh, they said the Gulf states should be involved in global negotiations with Tehran and were ready to “cooperate and deal seriously and effectively with the Iranian nuclear file … on the basis of respect for sovereignty and good neighbourliness.”

The statement stressed “the danger of separating the implications of the nuclear deal” from Iran’s missile programme and support for regional proxies and urged Tehran to engage seriously with talks and avoid escalations.

Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran, which severed ties in 2016, began direct talks in Iraq in April aimed at containing tensions.

They are locked in a rivalry that has played out across the region, including in Yemen where a military coalition led by Riyadh has been battling the Iran-aligned Houthi militias for more than six years.

On Wednesday, the Gulf foreign ministers condemned Tehran for smuggling weapons to the Houthis. They also denounced attacks carried out by the militias in Yemen’s Marib province and the Houthis’ continued obstruction of a UN mission to inspect the dangerously decaying tanker FSO Safer which is moored off Yemen’s coast.

The tanker was abandoned more than five years ago and its structure, equipment and operating systems are deteriorating, leaving it at risk of leaking, exploding or catching fire.

With 48 million gallons of crude oil on board the vessel, the UN is warning that a potential leak would be four times bigger than the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster off the coast of Alaska, considered the world’s worst oil spill in terms of environmental damage.

The foreign ministers also said they reject foreign interference in the affairs of Arab countries and any actions that affect the water rights of Egypt and Sudan.

They further condemned the increase of drug smuggling from Lebanon after the Saudis banned the import and transit of fruit and vegetables from the crisis-stricken country when authorities foiled two large drug smuggling attempts in April.