Obama defends Iran deal at Gulf summit

Obama also said US, Gulf allies will work together to deal with low oil prices

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US President Barack Obama on Wednesday defended the Iran nuclear deal his administration had long lobbied for, but also pledged vigilance against Tehran at a summit attended by Gulf leaders in the Saudi capital Riyadh.

“We will remain vigilant to make sure Iran fulfills its commitments, just as we fulfill ours,” Obama said at the close of the meeting with the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

Obama’s administration lent its weight for the deal, signed in July last year with the Islamic republic and six world powers, to use diplomacy in order to block pathways for Iran to develop a nuclear arm, an allegation Tehran has long rejected.

Gulf states have long expressed concerns over Iran’s interference and meddling in the region, a worry Obama has tackled in his Riyadh visit when he said Iran must be held “accountable” and that the US is going to work to stop Iran from backing the Houthi militia group in Yemen.

Need for talks

However, he said there is a need for a “dialogue” as well, highlighting his administration’s keenness for diplomacy.

Citing Iran’s “destabilizing activities” in the region, he said: “Even with the nuclear deal we recognize collectively that we continue to have serious concerns about Iranian behavior.”

But he added: “None of our nations have an interest in conflict with Iran.”

While concerns remain over Iran and economic issues, including the collapsed oil prices, he also described the GCC monarchies as united in their commitment to defeating ISIS and soothing other regional conflicts.

“We remain united in our fight to destroy ISIL,” he said, using another acronym for ISIS, at the close of the summit.

Obama, finishing his brief trip to the kingdom, said he and the Gulf leaders had agreed about ways to move forward in campaign against ISIS, with members of the GCC states agreeing to “increase their contributions to the fight.”

He also said “the United States and the GCC will launch a new high-level economic dialogue with a focus on adjusting to lower oil prices, increasing our economic ties and supporting GCC reforms as they work to provide jobs and opportunities to their young people and all of their citizens.”