Bangkok Post

Iran nuclear accelerati­on stokes terror

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>>WASHINGTON: Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said on Friday that Iran’s accelerati­on of its nuclear activities is putting the world in “a very dangerous place” amid efforts to bring Tehran back into a 2015 nuclear deal.

Speaking at a news conference in Washington a day after meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Bin Farhan called for a “quick suspension” of Iranian activities in violation of the agreement under which Iran curbed its nuclear programme in return for economic sanctions relief.

Bin Farhan also urged a “quick resumption” of indirect talks between the United States and Iran. Regional powers Iran and Saudi Arabia are arch rivals.

“I think we are in a very dangerous place. The fact that we continue to see accelerati­on of those activities ... leads to the devaluatio­n of the JCPOA,” he said, using the initials of the agreement formally called the Joint Comprehens­ive Plan of Action.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, who took office in August, has so far refused to resume the indirect talks in Vienna.

US President Joe Biden’s administra­tion wants to negotiate a return to compliance with the deal after his predecesso­r Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement in 2018 and re-imposed sanctions, after which Iran resumed building its stockpile of enriched uranium.

“We have started a dialogue with Iran,” Bin Farhan said, referring to four rounds of talks that the two countries began holding in 2020 that focused primarily on the conflict in Yemen.

“These interactio­ns, while cordial, have been explorator­y in nature and have not reached a state where we can say that we’ve made substantia­l progress.”

Bin Farhan declined to answer when asked at the news conference to verify reports that Saudi Arabia is considerin­g allowing Iran to reopen a consulate in the city of Jeddah. Saudi Arabia broke relations with Iran in 2016 in a dispute over the Saudi execution of a Shia Muslim cleric.

On his trip to Washington, Bin Farhan also met with Robert Malley, the US special envoy for Iran affairs.

At the news conference, Bin Farhan also discussed the political crisis in Lebanon, where he said the events of the past two days show the need for “real serious change” from the country’s leaders. Tensions over a probe into last year’s massive blast in Beirut burst into the worst street violence in more than a decade on Thursday.

In Afghanista­n, Bin Farhan said, the Taliban rulers should take the “path of national reconcilia­tion” and bring together all elements of Afghan society, echoing calls by Western leaders for an inclusive government in the country where a US-backed government collapsed in August as American and other foreign forces were withdrawin­g.

Asked about whether the United States is pressing for an accelerati­on in oil production by Opec, Russia and others known as Opec+, Bin Farhan sidesteppe­d the question by saying Saudi Arabia is “committed to a balanced energy market, a balanced oil market”.

Saudi Arabia is managing the challenges to the global energy market posed by the Covid-19 pandemic “in a way that provides stability and serves the interests of producers and consumers”, bin Farhan added.

 ?? ?? PROXY WARS: Yemeni tribesmen supporting forces loyal to Yemen’s Saudi-backed president take on Iran-backed Shia Houthi rebels in the area of Sirwah, west of Marib city, Yemen in this June 2017 photo.
PROXY WARS: Yemeni tribesmen supporting forces loyal to Yemen’s Saudi-backed president take on Iran-backed Shia Houthi rebels in the area of Sirwah, west of Marib city, Yemen in this June 2017 photo.

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