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US-Saudi friendship 'stronger than ever', says Kerry

US Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz [Getty]

Date of publication: 24 January, 2016

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Ties between Washington and Riyadh are 'stronger than ever', said the US secretary of state, as he sought to reassure Gulf allies over Iran's nuclear deal.
Washington's friendship with Saudi Arabia is stronger than ever and the two states will work together to try to end wars in Syria and Yemen, Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday.

Speaking from Riyadh, Kerry also reassured Saudi Arabia and other Gulf state allies that the US would not "relax its guard" following the Iran nuclear deal.

"We have as solid a relationship, as clear an alliance and as strong a friendship with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia as we have ever had," Kerry said.

"Nothing has changed because we worked to eliminate a nuclear weapon with a country in the region," Kerry added, referring to the Iran nuclear deal.

Kerry was speaking to US embassy employees a day after meeting with Saudi and other Gulf officials on a visit aimed at reassuring US allies who are sceptical about the agreement.

Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries have long viewed Iran as a regional rival, and Riyadh and Tehran back opposite sides in the wars in Syria and Yemen.
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The nuclear deal, which was implemented a week ago after the UN certified that Iran had curbed its nuclear activities, lifted crippling sanctions on Tehran and unfroze billions of dollars in assets.

"Doing an agreement to get rid of a nuclear weapon doesn't do away with the other issues that are still of concern, so we will continue to work in the region with our friends and our allies," Kerry said.

Kerry said he had discussed "new ideas" to bring peace to Yemen, where the Saudi-backed government is battling Iran-supported Shia rebels.

Saudi Arabia is "committed to work with us in the efforts to try to stabilise Syria and calm down this hyped-up, exploited division between Sunni and Shia", Kerry added.

Saudi Arabia backs the Sunni-dominated Syrian rebellion against President Bashar Assad, a close ally of Iran who hails from Syria's Alawite minority.

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