Kerry reassures Saudi of 'solid relationship' with US

It comes as Iran announced that it has arrested 100 people over the attack on Saudi Arabia’s embassy.

US secretary of state John Kerry speaks to US embassy staff in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on January 24, 2016, before leaving Saudi Arabia. Mr Kerry reassured Saudi Arabia of its strong ties with Washington during the trip. Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo
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Riyadh // The US and Saudi Arabia enjoy a “solid relationship” even after the lifting of sanctions on the kingdom’s regional rival Iran, secretary of state John Kerry reassured Riyadh on Sunday.

“We have as solid a relationship, as clear an alliance, and as strong a friendship with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia as we’ve ever had,” Mr Kerry said before departing Riyadh for Laos at the end of a 24-hour visit.

“Nothing has changed because we worked to eliminate a nuclear weapon with a country in the region,” he added. “We will continue to work in the region with our friends and our allies.”

Mr Kerry has long sought to calm concerns among Washington’s Gulf allies about the overtures to leading Shiite power Iran, whose relations with rival Saudi Arabia worsened this month after protesters there burned Riyadh’s embassy in Tehran and a consulate in Mashhad city. Saudi Arabia and some of its allies cut diplomatic ties with Iran after the attack.

Meanwhile, an Iranian judiciary spokesman said on Sunday that Tehran has arrested 100 people over the attack on Saudi Arabia’s embassy.

“Since the attack, about 100 people have been arrested, of whom some have been released,” Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejeie was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.

The ransacking of the embassy earlier this month “has been condemned by all authorities and we have taken immediate and serious action”, he said.

The Islamic republic’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Wednesday condemned the attack.

“Like the British embassy attack before it, this was against the country [Iran] and Islam, and I didn’t like it,” he said, referring to a mob ransacking Britain’s embassy in Tehran in 2011.

President Hassan Rouhani also condemned the attacks as “totally unjustifiable” and called on the judiciary to put on trial those accused of being involved.

The violence broke out after the kingdom executed Saudi Shiite cleric Nimr Al Nimr, a driving force behind anti-government protests, as part of a group of 47 mostly Sunni Saudis sentenced to death for “terrorism”.

The kingdom and its Gulf neighbours perceive a lack of support from their traditional ally Washington, particularly in the face of what they see as Iran’s interference in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere.

The historic deal with Tehran – backed by the US and five other major powers – led this month to the lifting of crippling economic sanctions on Iran in return for a scaling back of its nuclear capabilities.

Saudi foreign minister Adel Al Jubeir said on Saturday that he did not see a “coming together” of the US and Iran.

“Iran remains the world’s chief sponsor of terrorism,” Mr Al Jubeir said.

“Overall I think the United States is very aware of the danger of Iran’s mischief and nefarious activities ... I don’t believe the United States is under any illusion as to what type of government Iran is.”

Saudi Arabia and Iran support opposite sides in the Syria and Yemen wars.

* Agence France-Presse