By Pamela Dockins, VOA
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, right, walks with Saud bin Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia, during a meeting of Gulf foreign ministers at Riyadh Air Base, on Thursday, March 5, 2015.
RIYADH-U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is meeting with Gulf state officials in Saudi Arabia on Thursday, in a bid to ease their concerns about the potential impact of an Iran nuclear deal.
Kerry arrived in Riyadh late Wednesday, after holding three days of meetings with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif in Switzerland.
The talks took place at a critical time. The U.S. and other world powers involved in nuclear negotiations are trying to reach a framework agreement by the end of this month.
A senior State Department official said Wednesday that President Barack Obama would make an assessment at the end of March on whether it is worthwhile to proceed with the talks.
In Saudi Arabia, Kerry is trying to assure Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members that an Iran nuclear deal would not lead to regional instability.
He held talks early Thursday with the foreign ministers of the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia as well as a bilateral meeting with Omani Foreign Minister Yusef Bin Alawi Bin Abdullah.
Meets with King Salman
Later, he met with King Salman at his ranch, near Riyadh, the ancestral home of the Saud family. Kerry and U.S. officials including U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia Joseph Westphal and Assistant Secretary Anne Paterson walked through a courtyard into a long room where they met the king.
In addition to Iran’s nuclear status, Kerry and Gulf officials are expected to discuss issues of regional concern, including unrest in Yemen and coalition efforts to fight Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.
Shi'ite Houthi rebels seized control of the capital in January and placed U.S.-backed Sunni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi under house arrest. Later, Hadi fled detention and went to a new base in the southern city of Aden.
At a February forum hosted by the Bookings Institution, former U.S. Ambassador to Yemen Barbara Bodine said the Houthis are an “internally focused political movement,” that is unlikely to voluntarily relinquish power.
“They are a political force. They are a security force,” Bodine said. “They are there and they are not going to step down."
Kerry and Gulf officials are also expected to discuss coalition efforts to fight Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria before wrapping up his visit to Saudi Arabia and traveling to London.
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