Time running out for diplomacy with Iran: ClintonRIYADH — Prince Saud Al-Faisal, Foreign Minister, Saturday said it was a “duty” to arm the Syrian opposition and help them defend themselves against the daily bloody crackdown by forces loyal to President Bashar Al-Assad. “The arming of the opposition is a duty, I think, because it cannot defend itself except with weapons,” Prince Saud said during a joint news conference with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Commenting on the fragile security situation, Prince Saud said: “One of the most important causes is the continuation of the unresolved conflict as well as the continuation of the Israeli aggression policy against the Palestinians.
“We have discussed, in the meeting, many issues, especially the heinous massacre against the Syrian people. We also discussed the latest developments in Yemen, and reviewed the overall developments and political situation in the Gulf region, the Middle East and North Africa, as well as their repercussions on the security and stability of the region and the world,” Prince Saud said.
The US and Gulf states also urged envoy Kofi Annan to produce a “timeline for next steps” in his peace plan for Syria if Assad fails to stop the bloodshed.
Clinton, who met her counterparts from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman at the US-Gulf Cooperation Council meeting here, voiced concern over Syria’s continued deadly crackdown on dissent.
Clinton said time was running out for diplomacy over Iran’s nuclear program and said talks aimed at preventing Tehran from acquiring a nuclear weapon would resume in Istanbul on April 13.
She also expressed doubt about whether Iran has any intention of negotiating a solution that satisfies the US, Israel and other countries that believe Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran contends the program is solely for peaceful energy and research purposes.
“We’re going in with one intention: to resolve the international community’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear program,” Clinton said.
Clinton voiced renewed skepticism about Syria’s acceptance of Annan’s six-point peace plan, which calls on Syrian forces to withdraw from besieged cities and silence their guns. “And as of today, regime forces continue to shell civilians, lay siege to neighborhoods, and even target places of worship,” Clinton said on the eve of Istanbul talks aimed at helping the Syrian opposition.
In a speech to the first US strategic cooperation forum with the GCC countries, Clinton stressed Washington’s “rock-solid and unwavering” commitment to the security of the Gulf Arab countries.
Raising security ties from a bilateral to a multilateral level, Clinton was broke new ground in participating in the first strategic cooperation forum between US and the GCC.
She looked to taking “practical and specific steps to strengthen our mutual security, such as helping our militaries improve interoperability, cooperate on maritime security and missile defense, and coordinate responses to crises.”
Officials have said it is a US “priority” to help the GCC build a “regional missile defense architecture” against what they see as a looming ballistic missile threat from Iran.
Before heading to Turkey for a 60-nation “Friends of the Syrian People” meeting Sunday, Clinton lamented what she called the Assad government’s shelling of civilian neighborhoods and targeting of mosques and churches.
She said these attacks have continued despite Assad’s acceptance of Annan’s plan to end the crisis. That plan includes an immediate ceasefire and an eventual democratic transition. — Agencies