Former US Secretary of State John Kerry offered support for Saudi Arabia in its ongoing dispute with Qatar in a speech in London on Tuesday. He also praised Riyadh’s efforts to take on Saudi corruption.
Kerry is the highest-ranking member of the US Democratic Party to weigh-in on the ongoing dispute.
“[Saudi Arabia] together with the Emiratis and others they are taking a very firm stand against the extremism that in its duplicitous form has been allowed to play a game out there. That’s part of what this challenge with Qatar is about,” Kerry said.
Kerry served as America’s top diplomat from 2013 to 2017 during President Obama’s second term in office. Kerry was also the Democratic Party’s nominee in the 2004 presidential election, which he lost to Republican President George W. Bush who was re-elected.
Kerry was the featured speaker at a lunchtime event at Chatham House, London based international affairs think tank. Kerry appeared at the event which discussed the Iranian nuclear deal alongside British diplomat Baroness Cathy Ashton, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
“I have great respect frankly for what the Crown Prince in Saudi Arabia and King Salman are trying to do to move Saudi Arabia,” Kerry said at an event in London in reference to the Vision 2030 and recent crackdown on corruption launched by the Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.
Kerry made clear he has no illusions about how much work such an effort will take. “It’s a huge lift folks, huge challenge to try to change those societies,” he said.
Kerry’s words appeared to echo a two-part Twitter message sent hours earlier by US President Donald Trump. who is in Tokyo, Japan as part of a diplomatic trip to East Asia.
“I have great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, they know exactly what they are doing ... Some of those they are harshly treating have been “milking” their country for years!,” the president tweeted.
Kerry also offered his view that the Qatar dispute was tied to the issue of extremism in the region. “It's not just about two nations squabbling. It’s about a bigger vision of where we are going and whether we are going to stop extremism,” he said.
Those remarks differed markedly from recent statements by his successor Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who has notably differed with President Trump in trying to adjudicate the Qatar dispute rather than take sides.
However, Kerry offered criticism of Trump elsewhere in the speech.
The London event was focused on the future of 2015 Iranian nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Kerry, an architect of that agreement, criticized Trump’s policies regarding the nuclear deal and suggested American credibility was at stake.
“The North Koreans were always interested in the Iran negotiations, they used to turn up to where the meetings were being held. If the US pulls out now it will send a message to the world that it cannot keep to its commitments,” Kerry said.