Riyadh rallies allies against Tehran at Mecca summits
MECCA, Saudi Arabia - Gulf and Arab allies rallied around Saudi Arabia Friday in a faceoff with regional rival Iran after a series of attacks targeting Gulf oil installations earlier this month.
King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud called on Gulf and Arab leaders to confront Iran's "criminal acts" after sabotage attacks damaged four vessels, two of them Saudi oil tankers, in the Sea of Oman and twin Yemeni rebel drone attacks shut down a key Saudi oil pipeline. US officials have attributed the attacks to Iran and its regional proxies.
The Saudi king's remarks came at the start of two back-to-back emergency summits in the Muslim holy city of Mecca that drew near-unanimous support for the kingdom from Gulf and Arab states.
A joint statement issued by Arab leaders said Iran's behaviour "poses a direct and serious threat" and called on "the international community to take a firm stand to confront Iran and its destabilising acts in the region."
Gulf leaders called on Iran to "stay away from hostile, destabilising acts."
They urged the international community to take "more serious and effective steps to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear capabilities and to impose stricter restrictions on Iran's ballistic missile programme."
They also stressed "the importance of strengthening Gulf-US cooperation in the framework of a strategic partnership" that has been strongly promoted by the Trump administration.
The summits came after Trump's national security advisor John Bolton said Wednesday that Iranian naval mines were "almost certainly" responsible for the damage to the four ships off the United Arab Emirates on May 12.
The findings of a five-nation inquiry into what happened have yet to be released.
Saudi Arabia hosted the summits -- which will be followed by a third meeting in Mecca early on Saturday of heads of state from Islamic nations -- in a bid to present a united front.
But Iraq, caught in the middle of its two allies, the US and Iran, objected to the final statement issued by the Arab summit.
Wary of being caught in the middle of a US-Iran showdown, Iraq has offered to mediate between Washington and Tehran.
Mediation efforts have been made too by the Gulf sultanate of Oman, which has maintained good relations with Tehran through successive regional crises.
Through the summits, Saudi Arabia has also sought to project a unified Arab front against Tehran in the face of a bitter rift with neighbouring Qatar.
Qatar was represented at Friday's meetings by Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser Al-Thani, Doha's highest-ranking official to visit the kingdom since the start of a Saudi-led boycott in 2017.