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Kerry to Address GCC Concerns About Iran Deal

by Pamela Dockins August 02, 2015

Secretary of State John Kerry has arrived in Qatar where he will meet with his counterparts in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to allay concerns about the Iran nuclear deal.

Kerry arrived in Doha, late Sunday, after spending the bulk of the day in Egypt in a strategic dialogue session with Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry that focused on security and other issues.

"If Iran is destabilizing, it is far, far better to have an Iran that doesn't have a nuclear weapon than one that does," said Kerry in a joint appearance with Shoukry.

"I am absolutely convinced that Egypt, Israel, the Gulf states, every country in the region, is safer with one-year breakout for 10 years than two months," he said, referring to provisions for Iran in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

The GCC is comprised of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.

Regional concerns

Some GCC members have raised concerns that sanctions relief for Iran, which would result from the country's compliance with provisions in the deal, could be destabilizing to the region. They fear it could allow Iran to widen its influence. Gulf officials have also raised concerns that Iran would use additional revenue to increase its support to militant groups, such as Hezbollah.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed al-Jubeir appeared to offer lukewarm support for the deal last month. He said his country would "welcome" any agreement that would guarantee Iran's "inability to obtain a nuclear weapon.'

Kerry, Jubeir and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet on the sidelines of the GCC talks. A senior State Department official said a key topic will be the ongoing crisis in Syria.

US, Egypt seeking warmer relations

Kerry is on a five-nation tour of the Middle East and South Asia.

In Egypt, he also met with President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, in a diplomatic show of support for Egypt's ongoing faceoff against Islamist extremists in the Sinai peninsula.

U.S. relations with Egypt have been strained since Mr. Sisi, the country's one-time army chief, overthrew the elected Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, in 2013. More than 1,000 Morsi supporters were killed in a crackdown on protests and militants have since killed hundreds of Egyptian soldiers and policemen.

Speaking alongside Shoukry, Kerry spoke of the need for 'balance' in fighting militants and respecting human rights in Egypt.

Focus on economic cooperation in Asia

From Qatar, Kerry travels to Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam, three countries that have been involved in talks on the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership to cut tariffs and trade barriers.

He will also attend a forum in Kuala Lumpur organized by ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

While in Hanoi, Kerry will take part in an event marking the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and Vietnam following the lengthy U.S. war there four decades ago.