Aboul Gheit says a new Iran deal 'does not end' the nuclear threat

Arab League chief calls on Tehran to stop meddling in the Mena region

Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit at a meeting of the foreign ministers of the member states in Kuwait City on January 30, 2022. AFP

The Secretary General of the League of Arab States, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, said on Monday that a possible “understanding” between Washington and Tehran to return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action “does not end” the Iranian nuclear threat.

“The talks does not end the Iranian nuclear threat, but only freezes it for several years,” Mr Aboul Gheit said in an interview with Arabic newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.

“The Arab world needs sure assurances from two sides: from Iran and from Israel, that the threat of nuclear weapons and nuclear armament must be abandoned.”

Mr Aboul Gheit stressed that the Middle East region had been demanding a zone free of nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction for 40 years.

He described the recent attacks on Saudi Arabia by the Iranian-backed Houthi militia as “a terrible and condemnable matter”, insisting that it was Iran reiterating the “importance of lifting sanctions on Iranian oil”.

Iran’s support for the Houthis, which the UN has documented and verified, includes the provision of suicide drones, ballistic and cruise missiles.

“Iran is interfering in Arab problems and on Arab land, and this must stop. Iran is strongly present in Yemen through the Houthis. ”

Mr Aboul Gheit highlighted Iran's presence in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq in the form of militias with strong links with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

“This all has to stop. I hope that if the Iranian nuclear agreement is agreed upon, or if it is launched again, this will motivate Iran to stop interfering in the region," he said.

“Since I was the Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs, from 2004, 2005 and 2006, I have been observing that Iran is using many Arab problems as pressure cards on the western world and on Israel.”

On the ongoing Lebanon crisis, the Secretary General said the country needed to “save itself” by holding legislative elections, forming a new government and then holding presidential elections, in conjunction with negotiations with the International Monetary Fund to eventually secure release of "frozen funds to Lebanese citizens”.

Referring to the restoration of relations with the Syrian government, he stressed that the issue of inviting President Bashar Al Assad to attend the Arab summit in early November in Algeria had not yet been resolved, adding that there was no decision "at the moment” on Syria's return, which he said might take years.

Last month, Mr Aboul Gheit said the Syrian regime was unlikely to be present at the next Arab summit, as there was a lack of consensus in readmitting the country into the organisation, but the member states would discuss letting Bashar Al Assad's regime back.

The latest Ukraine-Russia war has also shifted the attention from the problems that plague the Middle East, he said.

“There are many issues pressing on the Arab world and on Arab countries. When attention is taken from these issues to another issue, this negatively affects the Arab world. Because we are interested in a settlement in Syria, a settlement in Yemen, a settlement in Libya, and an improvement in the situation in Lebanon.”

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has put an added stress on the region's food security, with countries such as Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon scrambling to replace its wheat sources that were normally brought in from both Ukraine and Russia, before the start of the Ramadan season.

Lebanon's wheat importers for example, have not placed any new orders on the global market since Russia invaded Ukraine a month ago and prices rose significantly as a result.

Updated: March 28, 2022, 8:42 AM