Saudi king urges firm Arab stand against Iran's behaviour in region

"The absence of a firm and dissuasive response to Iran's acts of sabotage in the region has encouraged it to continue and strengthen them in the way we see today," King Salman said.
Friday 31/05/2019
Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz delivers a speech during the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit in Mecca, May 30. (Saudi Royal Court via Reuters)
Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz delivers a speech during the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit in Mecca, May 30. (Saudi Royal Court via Reuters)

MECCA, Saudi Arabia - Saudi Arabia's King Salman on Friday called on Arab states to confront Iran's "criminal" actions in the region, after attacks on vessels and oil installations sparked fears of a regional conflagration.

The king's remarks came at the start of two back-to-back emergency summits in the holy city of Mecca, which drew near-unanimous support for the kingdom from Gulf and Arab states.

"The absence of a firm and dissuasive response to Iran's acts of sabotage in the region has encouraged it to continue and strengthen them in the way we see today," the Saudi king said.

"Its recent criminal acts... require that all of us work seriously to preserve the security and achievements of GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council)," the king added, referring to the attacks on Gulf oil installations.

"The kingdom is keen to preserve the stability and security of the region, to spare it the scourge of war and to realise peace and stability," King Salman said.

The monarch also called on the international community to use "all means" necessary to contain Iran's behaviour.

The summits came a day after US National Security Advisor John Bolton said Iran was "almost certainly" behind this month's sabotage of four ships, including two Saudi oil tankers, off the UAE coast.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday that attacks on four vessels near a major bunkering hub, just outside the Strait of Hormuz, were "efforts by Iranians to raise the price of crude oil around the world."

Saudi Arabia also faces stepped-up drone attacks from Iran-aligned Houthi rebels, one of which resulted in the temporary shutdown of a major oil pipeline.

Saudi Arabia hosted the summits -- which will be followed by a third meeting of heads of state from Islamic nations -- apparently to mobilise efforts to isolate Iran's regime amid fears of a military confrontation.

Iraq, which has good ties with neighbouring Iran and Washington, said it objected to the Arab communique, which stated that any cooperation with Tehran should be based on "non-interference in other countries".

Iraqi President Barham Salih, asking the gathering to support Iraq's stability, said that rising tensions with Iran could spark a war if not managed well.

Tensions in the region spiked after the four ships were damaged in a sabotage attack off the coast of the emirate of Fujairah on May 12.

The vessels were attacked using "naval mines almost certainly from Iran", Bolton told a news conference in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday. Iran rejected the accusation.

"We definitely desire a change in the (Iranian) regime's behaviour," Brian Hook, US Special Representative for Iran, also said Thursday.

Through the summits, Saudi Arabia has sought to project a unified Arab front against Tehran in the face of bitter differences 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 two-year-old Saudi-led boycott.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt have enforced an economic and diplomatic boycott of Qatar since June 2017.

The alliance accuses Doha of supporting Islamic extremists and backing Iran.

(AW and agencies)