RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – Gulf Arab leaders meeting in Saudi Arabia reiterated Thursday their calls for a political solution to the wars in Yemen and Syria, but the kingdom's foreign minister went a step further, criticizing Iran's role in those conflicts.
Adel al-Jubeir told reporters after the two-day summit in Riyadh concluded that "Iran is playing a negative role in most regional issues." He said he had only met for "a few minutes" with his Iranian counterpart in Vienna last month on the sidelines of a meeting on Syria's nearly five-year war, in which Saudi Arabia and Iran are backing opposite sides of the conflict.
Riyadh is also hosting a Syrian opposition summit that gathered more than 100 representatives from various factions and rebel groups, in an effort to unite their ranks ahead of proposed peace talks with Syrian President Bashar Assad's government.
Al-Jubeir said the kingdom hopes for better relations with Iran, but that the Islamic Republic's policies have hindered diplomatic ties.
His comments point to the struggle for regional supremacy between the Sunni kingdom and the Shiite republic that has played out in conflicts in Bahrain, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen, where Saudi Arabia is leading an Arab military intervention against Shiite rebels backed by Iran.
However, the official statement from the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council refrained from directly criticizing Iran, but instead condemned terrorism and called on Yemen's warring sides to reach a political solution. The GCC also called for a political transitional period in Syria that eventually leads to free and fair multiparty elections.
Leaders from Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and a senior Omani royal took part in the summit led by Saudi King Salman, which was held in his Diraya palace.