Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister has used a trip to London to robustly
defend his country’s more assertive role in the world, despite concerns
it could escalate tensions with Iran.
The Saudi Arabian foreign minister says that the release of billions of dollars of Iran’s wealth should “worry everybody”.
After meeting US Secretary of State John Kerry, Adel al Jubeir insisted his country was right to intervene more aggressively in parts of the Middle East in an interview with Sky News.
“Now that Saudi Arabia has stepped up and taken decisive action in Yemen in supporting the Syrian opposition in standing up to Iran, people are saying ‘why are the Saudis doing this?’.
“It’s reckless, it’s one of those positions where it’s damned if we do damned if we don’t. Make up your minds. Do you want us to lead or want us to support? And if you want us to support, who’s going to lead?”
Adel al Jubeir is the new face of Saudi diplomacy. Young and telegenic with flawless English he is the first non-royal to take up the post. And he is on a charm offensive, after recent weeks of negative press about his government.
In a rare act of openness, London’s Saudi Embassy threw open its doors to a select group of journalists for a lengthy briefing with a foreign minister eager to address concerns about his country’s new more interventionist regional policy.
For decades it has presented itself as a conservative bastion of stability in the Middle East. But recent events have seen the Saudi government described by observers as reckless, impulsive, and dangerous.
It defends its execution of shiite cleric Nimr al Nimr as the work of an independent judiciary. But the killing led to the Saudi embassy being ransacked in Tehran and, in turn, Saudi Arabia severing diplomatic ties with its neighbour.
Now there are concerns about the impact all that could have on wars in both Yemen and Syria. Adel al Jubeir could only say he was hopeful over Syrian peace talks scheduled for 25 January but which despite being increasingly in jeopardy will still go ahead.
Saudi Arabia is nervous about the impact of international sanctions on Iran being lifted imminently.
Billions of dollars of frozen Iranian assets will be released as part of the deal on Iran nuclear programme.
Adel al Jubeir says that should worry everybody.
“Every country in the world is worried about this. Iran’s record has been one of war and destruction, terrorism, destabilisation, interference in the affairs of other countries and the concern in most countries in the world is that Iran not use these funds in order to fund destabilisation activities but instead use the funds to improve the wellbeing of its people.”
Those sanctions may be lifted as early as Friday.