Kerry urges Iran to help end wars in Yemen, Syria
Kerry made the statement after arriving in Bahrain where he is expected to discuss regional conflicts ahead of a Gulf summit
US Secretary of State John Kerry urged Iran on Thursday to help end wars in Yemen and Syria, where Tehran and its Gulf Arab rivals are backing opposing sides.
Kerry called on Iran to “help us end the war in Yemen... help us end the war in Syria, not intensify, and help us to be able to change the dynamics of this region,” he told a news conference in Bahrain ahead of a meeting with his Gulf counterparts.
He said Tehran should “prove to the world that it wants to be a constructive member of the international community and contribute to peace and stability.”
All the Gulf Arab states, apart from Oman, are taking part in an Arab Coalition that has been battling Iran-backed militias in Yemen since March last year in a war which the United Nations says has killed around 6,300 people.
The Gulf Arab states have also been staunch backers of Syrian rebel groups who have been fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad's regime since 2011.
Iran, with Russia, has been among the regime's principal supporters in the conflict that has killed more than 270,000 people and pushed nearly five million into exile.
Kerry arrived on Wednesday in Bahrain where he is expected to discuss regional conflicts ahead of a Gulf summit to be attended by President Barack Obama.
Kerry will meet his counterparts from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) as well as senior officials in the strategic island state situated between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
He is the first US secretary of state to visit Bahrain, which is home to the US Fifth Fleet, since Hillary Clinton in 2010.
A US official told AFP that Kerry will meet Gulf ministers to discuss “some of the critical regional issues, primarily Yemen, Syria, the situation in Iraq, Lebanon, and elsewhere in the region.”
The GCC also includes Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman.
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE have carried out air strikes against ISIS in Syria as part of a United States-led coalition.
“We’re satisfied, I think, with the overall level of support that we’re getting from the Gulf States in the coalition,” the US official said.
He added: “We recognise that the focus on Yemen over these last months has detracted in some sense from the ability of the Gulf states to participate in the military components of the (anti-IS) coalition, although they are coming back and they are flying sorties again with us on that.”
Focus on Syria or Yemen?
Kerry will also ask Gulf nations to use their “influence on opposition groups” in Syria to maintain a fragile truce in force since Feb. 27, according to another US official.
His visit aims to prepare for Obama’s attendance of a GCC summit in Riyadh on April 21, where Washington’s policies towards the Middle East are likely to come under the microscope.
Uneasy partners in the Gulf have been furious at Obama’s engagement with their Shiite foe Iran and perceived retreat from the Middle East.